Written by attorney Jacob Robert Nemer

Probate Process in Tennessee

Probate is a legal process which provides for the orderly administration of a decedent's estate, the satisfaction of the decedent's outstanding debts, and the distribution of the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries. In Tennessee, a decedent's estate is subject to probate regardless of whether he/she died testate or intestate (a "testate" estate exists when the decedent left a validly executed will; an "intestate" estate exists when the decedent left no will, or the will left by the decedent is invalidly executed). The validity of a will depends upon whether or not the preparer of the will adequately followed the statutory requirements. In a testate estate, once the will is admitted to probate, the court will name an "executor" (or "executrix" if female). Typically, the court will appoint as executor/executrix the person named by the decedent in the will. On rare occasions, the court will appoint someone other than the executor/executrix named in the will. In an intestate estate, where decedent did not leave a valid will, the court will appoint an administrator (or "administratrix"). Using statutory guidelines, the court will typically appoint a family member to serve as administrator/administratrix. Regardless of whether the estate is testate or intestate, the probate process is essentially the same. The executor or administrator, with the aid on their attorney, is responsible for, among other things, (1) giving notice of decedent's death to all known creditors and making sure that legitimate debts are paid; (2) giving notice to all heirs and beneficiaries that the estate is subject to probate, (3) collecting, safe-guarding, and distributing the probate assets; (4) preparing and filing reports and inventories with the court; (5) preparing and filing the necessary tax returns; and (6) handling TennCare related issues. The complexity of the probate process depends upon the size of the estate and the nature of the assets.

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