Probate is a court-supervised process for transferring property after death. The probate process protects both potential heirs and creditors. However, this process is only necessary when the decedent owned assets in their own name, alone. These assets must go through the probate process and are considered part of the “probate estate.” However, sometimes people die owning assets that do not require probate.
When You Don’t Need Probate
As a general rule, many estates do go through probate. However, there are two common exceptions:
- Small estates. If the probate estate is under the monetary threshold set forth in the Tennessee Small Estates Act, you may just need to file an affidavit with the court rather than go through the entire probate process. The affidavit should state whether the decedent had a will, any unpaid debts, any property, the names of those who currently possess the property, a list of heirs, whether notice will be provided to creditors, and an oath by the person filing the affidavit. The person filing the affidavit is responsible for gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing assets in accordance with the will or Tennessee intestacy laws.
- Property exempt from probate. Some property transfers to new owners without going through probate. Common examples include retirement accounts and life insurance policies with named beneficiaries, jointly held bank accounts, trust property, and real estate owned with a spouse.
Sometimes, real estate may also transfer at the time of death outside of the probate process.
Talk to a Probate Lawyer After the Death of a Loved One
If your loved one died and you have questions about whether the estate needs to go through probate, we encourage you to contact our Tennessee probate attorneys to discuss your legal options. Contact us today to learn how we can help with your loved one’s estate.