Small-Firm Care. Large-Firm Experience & Power.

An Overview of Probate Laws in Tennessee

| Aug 4, 2021 | Probate Litigation

The probate process occurs when a loved one passes away, and their will must be validated by the courts before assets can be divided and passed to heirs. All debts of the estate must be paid, and the wishes of the decedent must be met as defined in the will.

Not every estate will be required to go through probate in Tennessee. In fact, a small estate affidavit can be filed with the courts if the estate is less than $50,000. The affidavit must be signed no sooner than 45 days after the decedent’s death. If the court approves the affidavit, it means that the estate will not need to go through probate.

Assets not required to go through probate

Assets that are not required by Tennessee law to go through probate include the following:

  • Property held in tenancy by the entirety
  • Jointly held properties
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Bank accounts with payable on death clauses
  • Living trust assets
  • Retirement accounts
  • Assets that have transfer on death signed forms

How to settle a Maryville estate

Going through probate in Maryville is much like going through probate everywhere else in the United States. The overall process is as follows:

  • A petition must be filed with the probate court to start the process
  • The court will approve the executor of the state or the personal representative
  • The executor must notify all the heirs and creditors of the estate
  • The executor is required to take note of all the assets and hire an appraiser to value some of the larger assets
  • All taxes must be filed and paid
  • All debts of the estate must be paid (some assets might have to be sold if there isn’t enough money to pay the debts or taxes)
  • The remaining assets will be distributed to rightful heirs based on the will

Are executors/personal representatives compensated?

Tennessee law provides for compensation for executors/personal representatives of wills and estates, according to Tennessee Code Chapter 30, Section 1-407. Executors are paid for the time they spend in the position as well as any expenses they incur while serving as an executor of an estate:

The administrator, guardian or trustee shall have all the powers, and shall receive the same compensation, that other administrators, guardians and trustees are entitled to receive for their services, and this compensation shall be approved by the court at the time of periodic accountings or in the order appointing the administrator, guardian, or trustee.

How long will it take to complete the probate process?

The probate process can take anywhere from six months to upwards of one year. The length of the probate process is based on how many assets need to go through the process and how large the assets are. If someone comes forward to contest the will, this will cause probate to last even longer. Tennessee law allows creditors four months to file a claim against an estate after they receive notice from the executor, which means that probate will last no less than four months.

Is there a deadline to file for probate?

Tennessee law does not have a deadline in place to file for probate. There are no fines that can be levied if someone holds onto a will instead of filing it with the probate court. Despite there not being an official deadline, most heirs will file for probate immediately after a loved one’s death in order to settle the estate.

Is there an inheritance or estate tax in Tennessee?

Tennessee is free of inheritance and estate taxes. Despite this, those who handle an estate following a decedent’s death have other taxes to file. The taxes the executor is responsible for include the following:

  • Federal estate/trust income tax return. These must be filed by April 15 of the year following the decedent’s death
  • Final individual federal and state income tax returns. Both of these must be filed by tax day in the year following the decedent’s death
  • Federal estate tax return. This tax must be filed within nine months after the decedent’s death but it can be extended by six months if the extension is requested before the expiration of the nine-month deadline. This tax filing is only required when the estate has a gross asset and prior taxable gift value exceeding $11.4 million.

An estate is not considered an individual, even though it belonged to one. Because of this, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that all estates have employee identification numbers (EIN). If you are still creating your estate plan and need an EIN, you can apply for one on the IRS website, via fax, or by mail.

How does intestate succession work in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, intestate succession happens as follows:

  • If you have a spouse but no children, your entire estate goes to your spouse
  • If you have a spouse and children, the estate is split evenly between the spouse and all of the children and the spouse is to receive no less than 33 percent of the total estate
  • If you have children but no spouse, the estate will be split evenly among all of your children

It’s important to note that adopted children are viewed the same as biological children under Tennessee laws. This means that if a decedent has an adopted child and a biological child, they each receive the same amount of the estate as the other.

Do you have questions about probate? The Maryville probate attorneys at Shepherd & Long can answer those questions and represent you when a will in your family has to go through the probate process. Call our office at 865-383-3118 or complete the contact form to schedule a consultation today. We serve clients throughout East Tennessee and Blount County.