The loss of a family member, or close loved one, is generally a time filled with grief and heightened emotions. If you find yourself dealing with the loss of a loved one, the last thing on your mind is probably the practical and legal impact of your loved one’s death. Unfortunately, you may need to focus on that aspect of the decedent’s death if the decedent named you as the Executor of the estate or if you are the best choice to volunteer as the Personal Representative (PR) if the decedent died intestate. If you have never been through the probate of an estate before, you likely don’t know where to find some of the resources you will need to help you fulfill your role as Executor/PR. At Bennett, Michael & Hornsby, we understand how difficult it can be to try and navigate the court system during a time of high stress and/or emotions. To assist you, we have compiled some commonly used Murfreesboro, Tennessee probate resources that we hope you find helpful. If you have specific questions or concerns about the estate you are probating, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a consultation.
The Probate Process – What You Need to Know to Get Started
Probate is the legal process that is typically required after someone dies. Probate serves several important functions, including providing a legal framework within which the decedent’s assets are transferred to the new owners as well as ensuring that all creditors of the estate, including tax authorities, are paid. The individual who oversees the probate of an estate is the Executor and is appointed by the decedent if a Last Will and Testament was executed prior to death. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, any competent adult may volunteer to be the “Personal Representative(PR) and oversee the probate of the estate. For the most part, the job of Executor and PR are the same. For more general information on the probate process, the American Bar Association has a section entitled “The Probate Process” on its website that you may wish to read.
Probate Court Resources
As a general rule, the probate of an estate occurs in the county in which the decedent was a resident at the time of his/her death. Therefore, if the decedent was a resident of Murfreesboro, Tennessee at the time of death, the estate will be probated in Rutherford County. In Rutherford County, the General Sessions judges preside over probate matters. Most Executors/PRs retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist during the probate process, particularly if the estate does not qualify for a small estate alternative to formal probate. If, however, you decide to proceed pro se, or without the assistance of an attorney, you will be expected to understand the Rutherford County court rules. In addition, if you are proceeding without the assistance of an attorney, you should read through the “Estate Matters – Procedural Information” provided by the courts. Even if you decide to retain an attorney, the information compiled by the courts will help you to better understand the steps that are generally required during the probate of an estate. You may also need specific forms during the probate of an estate that may be found on the Rutherford County Clerk forms website.
Resources for the Executor or Personal Representative
As the Executor or PR of an estate, one of the first tasks you will have is to obtain several certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate. This can be accomplished through the Tennessee Department of Health. You will also likely need to conduct a thorough search to make sure you have identified all real property owned by the decedent. A good place to start is the Rutherford County Property Assessor’s website. Once the probate of the estate has been officially opened, you will need to publish notice in a local newspaper to fulfill the notice requirement for creditors of the estate. The Murfreesboro Post is one local newspaper that publishes legal notices.
Every estate is potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. As the Executor/PR of the estate you must prepare an estate tax return and determine if the estate owes any federal taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website offers a general overview of the federal estate tax. They also have a “Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Tax” section that may be helpful. If the estate does, indeed, owe federal gift and estate taxes, those taxes must be paid before any assets are transferred out of the estate. Historically, the State of Tennessee also levied an inheritance tax on estates; however, that tax was abolished for deaths that occurred after 2015.
If you have additional questions or concerns about probating an estate in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, please feel free to contact the probate lawyers at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.