When a person dies and leaves a sizable estate, Tennessee may require probate for some assets. With the probate process, the court supervises the administration of the deceased person’s assets and debts, including property distribution.

Whether you are planning your own estate or preparing to serve as executor for a family member, be sure you understand probate requirements in Tennessee.

Understanding exempt property

Under state law, certain types of assets do not require probate:

  • Any assets held in a living trust
  • Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Proceeds from a life insurance policy with a named beneficiary
  • Assets the deceased person registered with a transfer-on-death form
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Real estate and other assets the deceased owned jointly with his or her spouse or another individual

Also, estates worth less than $50,000 in nonexempt assets can take advantage of a simplified probate process.

Navigating probate

When an estate requires probate, the executor initiates the process by providing the will to the deceased court in the person’s home county. The court will review the will and issue a legal document called letters testamentary, which gives the executor authorization to administer the deceased’s estate. Additionally, witnesses to the will must provide a sworn statement to its authenticity. In the absence of witnesses, two representatives must confirm that the signature matches that of the deceased individual.

The executor must publish notice of the person’s estate so creditors can submit legal claims for the deceased’s debts. Depending on the type of debt, the creditor may have up to 12 months to submit a claim.

Within 60 days of opening probate, the executor must provide the court with a full accounting and valuation of the estate assets. Then, he or she pays the estate’s taxes and debts and distributes property to beneficiaries.

Probate in Tennessee generally lasts about six to 12 months. However, disagreements over the deceased person’s will or other complications can extend the probate process.