Top 10 Tennessee Probate Questions and Answers

There is an excellent chance that you will be directly involved in the probate of someone’s estate at some point in your life, either because you were named as the Executor of the decedent’s Will or because you are a beneficiary or heir of the decedent’s estate. When that time comes, it will help to have a better understanding of the probate process, so you know what to expect. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro probate attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby offers answers to the top 10 questions about the Tennessee probate process.

  • What is probate? Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed, debts are paid, and legal title to property is transferred to beneficiaries named by the decedent and/or to legal heirs of the estate under the Tennessee intestate succession rules.
  • Is probate required in Tennessee? Probate is not always required in Tennessee. Whether probate is necessary depends on factors such as the value and type of assets left behind and whether there was a valid Will. Tennessee also allows the use of a Small Estate alternative to formal probate for estate’s wherein the total value of personal property does not exceed $50,000.
  • How is probate initiated in Tennessee? Probate in Tennessee is typically initiated by filing a petition with the appropriate court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of their death. If a Last Will and Testament was executed prior to death, the person named as the Executor in that document typically initiates probate. A certified death certificate and an original copy of the Will should be submitted along with the petition.
  • What assets are subject to probate in Tennessee? Assets that are solely owned by the deceased person and do not have a designated beneficiary or joint owner typically go through probate. This may include real estate, bank accounts, and personal property.
  • What assets are not subject to probate in Tennessee? Assets that have named beneficiaries or are jointly owned with rights of survivorship usually bypass probate. Examples include life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts with named beneficiaries, and jointly owned property with survivorship rights. In addition, assets held in a trust bypass probate, meaning they can be distributed shortly after death if the terms of the trust agreement so dictate.
  • How long does probate take in Tennessee? The duration of probate in Tennessee can vary depending on the complexity of the estate, any disputes that arise, and court schedules. Creditors have a minimum of four months from the date they receive notice of probate to file a claim against the estate. Claims must then be reviewed and paid, if approved. Consequently, formal probate usually takes a minimum of six months even if there are no delays and the estate does not become embroiled in litigation.
  • Do all estates in Tennessee require an attorney for probate? While it’s not legally required to have an attorney for probate in Tennessee, hiring one can help navigate the process, especially for complex estates or if disputes arise among beneficiaries.
  • What is a Personal Representative in Tennessee probate? A Personal Representative, often called an Executor if named in a Will or an Administrator if there is no Will, is responsible for managing the probate process, including inventorying assets, paying debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. 
  • How are debts handled in Tennessee probate? Debts of the decedent are typically paid from the estate’s assets during probate. Creditors are given an opportunity to file claims against the estate, and these claims are paid in a specific order set by Tennessee law.
  • Can probate be avoided in Tennessee? Yes, there are strategies to avoid probate in Tennessee, such as creating a revocable living trust, designating beneficiaries for assets, establishing joint ownership with rights of survivorship, and gifting assets during one’s lifetime. Incorporating probate avoidance strategies into your own estate plan helps reduce the time and cost of probating your estate after you pass away.

Contact a Murfreesboro Probate Attorney

If you have additional questions or concerns about the Tennessee probate process, 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 free appointment.


Stan Bennett