To “probate” a Will or an estate refers to the legal judicial procedure by which a deceased person’s Last Will and Testament is filed with the appropriate Court so that the Judge can formally determine that the Will is valid and should be given legal effect. Without submitting a Will to probate, even if a person leaves a Will behind when he or she dies, it has no formal validity or legal effect. At Bennett, Michael & Hornsby our experienced probate attorneys are available to assist you with the probate process. Contact us today at 615-898-1560 to schedule your free consultation.
The Tennessee Probate Process
Probate ensures that the Will being offered is properly scrutinized and is valid. A Will could be forged or perhaps a version of the Will which had been replaced by a later Will could be offered. Also, the person executing the Will may not have been mentally well enough to understand what he or she was signing. There are many other reasons that demonstrate why probate is appropriate and necessary, but these are just a couple of the more common ones.
Normally, going through the process of probating a Will is not difficult or expensive, provided the Will was properly prepared and executed. When a person dies, the person appointed by the Decedent (the deceased person) to represent the Estate should contact a lawyer and file a petition with the Court to admit the Will to probate. The designated representative and probate attorney then appear before a Probate Court Judge for a brief hearing to have the Judge review the Will and hear some evidence establishing that the Will is valid. At that time, the judge will sign a court order declaring the Will is admitted to probate and appoint a representative of the Estate (called an Executor). Normally this will be the person designated in the Will, but the court could also designate an “independent” person, if the court finds that the person designated in the Will is unsuitable for some reason. Afterwards, the Executor will be issued letters of testamentary by the clerk giving the Executor the authority to interact with banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, or other entities to properly administer the estate. Often this is with the probate lawyer’s guidance but, without further meaningful oversight by the Court. For example, the Executor often needs to determine the value of the decedent’s assets, pay his/her final bills and taxes, and, ultimately distribute the remainder of the estate to the rightful beneficiaries.
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Probate serves several important functions, including:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing estate assets
- Notifying estate creditors and providing them with an opportunity to file a claims against the estate.
- Ensuring that all state and federal gift and estate taxes are paid
- Effectuating the transfer of estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
Read our Probate Resources for Murfreesboro and the surrounding area.
The experienced probate attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby would be honored to guide you through the probate process. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.