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What Is Probate, And How Does It Work?  

Probate is the legal process that allows the courts to transfer property to rightful heirs and settle debts left behind by a decedent. It can get complicated, but having a fundamental understanding of the probate process can help you better communicate with your estate planning attorney.

If you live in Franklin, TN, you’ll be bound by Tennessee probate laws. While these vary from state to state, Tennessee residents can typically expect probate when a person dies without a will and without a clearly designated beneficiary for assets, such as bank accounts and real property.

As an estate planning attorney, one of the most frequent questions we receive in the office is, “Is probate always required?” The answer is no. If a person dies and all of their loose ends have already been tied up, chances are that probate is unnecessary. However, when there is not a will or if certain other circumstances arise, you or the decedent’s executor may need to contact the courts to begin the process. Dying without a will is called intestate. 

Even with a will, probate might be required if the terms are unclear or if they were handwritten and there are questions regarding the will’s validity. If there are minor beneficiaries without a guardian or conservator or, the courts may move assets into probate.

If you are getting ready to contact an estate planning attorney, you should know that probate can take just a few months to a year or more. Smaller estates with fewer beneficiaries usually take less time, while large estates with many assets and multiple heirs might get stuck in court for longer.

For those looking to avoid probate, an estate planning attorney might recommend several strategies. These include maintaining payable-on-death accounts or ensuring that all property is owned by you and another party.

The Probate Procedure

If probate is necessary, there are typically six steps that must be completed before assets are distributed to beneficiaries. These are filing, petitioning the appointment of an executor, letters testamentary, publication of probate, inventory, and debt settlement. Your estate planning attorney can provide further information on each step.

Trent Linville of The Law Office of Trent Linville, PLLC is an estate planning attorney located in Franklin, TN. A member of the Tennessee Bar Association, Linville is dedicated to helping members of his home state avoid excessive probate time and unnecessary expenses so that their assets can pass to their beneficiaries unencumbered.

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