If you recently lost a loved one, and now find yourself involved in the probate of his/her estate, you may have a number of questions about the process. For example, you probably want to know how long the probate process is going to take. To help you better understand what to expect, a Murfreesboro probate attorney at Bennett & Michael explains how long it usually takes to probate an estate in Tennessee.
What Happens after the Death of a Loved One?
When someone passes away, they typically leave behind an estate that includes all the assets and property owned by the decedent at the time of death. The government has a vested interest in making sure that estate is properly handled, including the transfer of assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate. If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament, the provisions of that Will shall be used to decide what happens to estate assets. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, the State of Tennessee intestate succession rules will dictate the disposition of assets.
The estate will likely need to go through the legal process known as probate. Along with ensuring that estate assets are handled according to the decedent’s wishes (or according to state intestate succession laws), probate also requires an inventory and valuation of those assets, notification to creditors, and payment of all taxes owed. If a Will was left behind, the person named as the Executor of the estate is responsible for overseeing the probate process. For an intestate estate, the judge will appoint someone to oversee the process.
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What Factors Determine How Long Probate Will Take?
If you were recently informed that you are a beneficiary under the terns of a decedent’s Will, you may think it means you will receive your inheritance in the near future. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be the case. Assets that are gifted to someone in a Will must first go through the probate process before they can be distributed. The amount of time it takes for an estate to get through probate will depend on several factors, including:
- Choice of Executor – Executors frequently retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist them throughout the probate process. Nevertheless, the right Executor will get the process going immediately and will make sure it moves through the process as quickly as possible. The wrong Executor may allow the estate to languish, thereby increasing the time it takes to get through the process.
- Creditors – the law requires creditors of the estate to have the opportunity to file claims for money owed to them from the estate. The Executor must then review the claims and decide to approve or deny them. In Tennessee, creditors have a four month period to make a claim from the date the probate court clerk first publishes what is referred to as a “Notice to Creditors.” The estate cannot be closed until that four-month period has passed. Realistically, even a simple estate won’t make it through formal probate in less than about six months.
- Challenges – once a Will has been submitted to the court for probate, any “interested person” has the legal right to contest the validity of the Will. If that happens, the challenge to the Will must be litigated before probate can proceed. A complex Will contest can extend the time it takes an estate to get through probate by months, even years.
- Estate planning – if the decedent had a comprehensive estate plan in place, the odds are favorable that probate avoidance strategies were included in that plan. For example, the decedent may have converted as many estate assets as possible to non-probate assets. If so, those assets will pass directly to the intended beneficiaries outside of the probate process.
Contact a Murfreesboro Probate Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about the time it takes to get through formal probate in Tennessee, or if you need assistance with probating an estate, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro probate attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.