When a loved one passes, their estate will often go through a court managed process called probate in which specific procedures must be followed before assets are distributed to heirs. This process occurs in the county in which the loved one lived. Probate gives someone, usually the surviving spouse or other family member, the legal authority to gather the deceased person’s assets, pay debts and taxes, and transfer assets to the people who inherit them.
At Silva Law, we understand that dealing with a complicated legal process is difficult during a time of loss. Meredith Silva uses her fifteen years of experience to guide her clients through the probate process with compassion and understanding. Silva Law is located in Nashville, Tennessee and represents clients throughout Middle Tennessee.
The probate process begins when the person named executor of a will deposits the will at the probate clerk's office in the county where the deceased person lived. The court issues this person “letters testamentary,” which gives the executor the authority to handle the estate. In cases in which there is no will, a family member, usually the surviving spouse or grown child, will ask the court to be appointed as the administrator. The court issues the administrator “letters of administration.” Further, if there was a will, its validity must be proven in court. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 32-2-104)
The executor or administrator is also known as the personal representative. That person is responsible for paying estate expenses, notifying creditors, turning in an inventory of assets that must go through probate (unless there is an exception), notifying potential heirs under the will or state law, and filing a request for release with TennCare. Our firm helps assist with these legal requirements including but not limited to giving proper legal notices to creditors, determining which assets need to pay which debts, and giving proper notices and releases. Once all debts and taxes are paid, the personal representative is responsible for distributing what's left of the probate estate to the people entitled to inherit it.
Not all assets have to go through probate in Tennessee. Only assets that the deceased person owned in his or her own name alone must go through probate. All other assets pass without oversight from the probate court. Some examples of assets that do no pass through probate are payable on death bank accounts, property held in joint tenancy, life insurance proceeds, retirements accounts and certain trusts. Sometimes we determine that formal probate administration is not necessary because all of the assets pass outside probate. In these cases, we can assist with proper transfer of title and collection of the assets.
To speak with an experienced probate lawyer and elder law attorney in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, contact Silva Law at 615-258-5541.
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