Knoxville Estate Settlement Attorney

Estate Settlement Attorney Knoxville, TN

Estate Settlement Attorney Knoxville, TNAs an estate settlement attorney in Knoxville, TN, we know that families are concerned, amidst the grief of losing a loved one, several pressing financial issues that will need to be taken care of to ensure the decedent’s estate is properly settled. Typically this process is left up to the party who has been appointed as the estate executor, often a trusted friend or close family member. In the absence of a will or estate plan, the process for determining who will be responsible for taking the lead will fall to probate court with the agreement of the heirs. 

Working with a firm like Carpenter & Lewis PLLC can play an integral role throughout the process as we can assist in helping the executor to understand the probate process and the appropriate steps to take towards settling a person’s estate after they have passed away.

Understanding the Probate Process

Probate is the legal process where the court validates a will after a person passes away. When there is a will, an executor or estate administrator is named and officially appointed in probate court. The estate executor is charged with carrying out the decedent’s final wishes by settling debts, selling property and assets (if necessary), and distributing wishes to beneficiaries. When there is no will, the court will appoint an executor. Typically this is a family member, but in the absence of this, a court-appointed executor may be necessary. 

Probate is often feared by many and is often an aspect of settling an estate that many people try to avoid. This is usually because, without proper planning, the probate process can become costly, litigious, and public. As a Knoxville estate settlement attorney will explain, there can be several steps to the probate process, and help from an experienced professional is highly beneficial. 

Taking the Right Steps 

For an estate executor, some steps should be taken before probate is opened and many more during the multi-month process while probate is pending. However, the complexity of probate and the assets that must pass through will largely depend upon whether the decedent developed an estate plan that reduced the number of assets that needed to be passed through probate. Estate executors should take the following initial steps when managing an estate after a decedent has passed:

  • Order death certificates. Several will be needed, at least four, to initiate probate and begin managing accounts and closing the estate.
  • Locate the necessary documents. The estate administrator will be required to locate critical documents such as the will, bank account statements, property deeds, birth certificates, vehicle titles, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and more.
  • Begin taking inventory of the decedent’s assets and liabilities.  Save all bills that come in the mail and all health insurance “explanation of benefits” statements too.
  • Consider consulting with an attorney for help with the process.
  • Notify interested parties that the person has passed. The administrator should notify loved ones, creditors, banks, and government agencies.
  • Settle all debts owed by the estate. 
  • While assets should promptly be distributed to beneficiaries, it’s crucial to refrain from dispersing assets too soon. It’s vital to ensure that all debts are paid before assets are distributed because when there is not enough money to pay these debts, the estate executor may be held liable. 

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list and every estate requires different steps.  Settling a person’s estate can be highly complex and even more challenging when grieving the loss of a loved one. Estate administrators carry a great duty; their role is to carry out the decedent’s wishes as outlined. Unfortunately, the process can be highly stressful, and a Knoxville estate settlement attorney from Carpenter and Lewis PLLC can help to clarify the process and settle the estate with ease.

When someone you care about passes away, you may be the one that has the duty to handle their affairs, and could probably use support from a Knoxville, TN estate settlement attorney. There is likely to be more than enough to do, such as completing funeral arrangements, and notifying other loved ones, in addition to these legal matters and reporting information, gathering records, and more. Knowing what to do when settling someone’s estate and getting support from a lawyer can make all the difference during a difficult time.

The executor of an estate may be someone like the decedent’s spouse, children, advisor, financial institution, or someone else. If you were appointed as executor, then you may benefit from getting guidance from a legal team to make sure you are taking all the steps you need to be aware of doing and are exhibiting due diligence. It’s important to have a clear idea of closing someone’s estate and remaining continually involved in this process. Estate settlement comes along with a list of responsibilities, from filing taxes to communicating with beneficiaries, appraising or selling assets, and so much more.

During the first few months after the person has passed away, an executor has to review the will and gather other necessary documentation. Review the will, trust documents, and other estate plan paperwork so that you have full knowledge of the instructions and conditions. Funeral expenses and other debts can be paid from the estate. You may need to collect the death certificate, birth certificate, life insurance policy, marriage certificate, and real estate titles, among other paperwork. Once appointed, you should forward mail and gather financial records including retirement accounts, brokerage, and bank statements for the past few years, and handle any claims that are submitted by creditors. If you need help deciding which creditor claims are valid and which should not be paid, you can get the answers you need from a Knoxville probate estate settlement attorney.

Generally, the court will schedule a hearing to assess will validity and to appoint an executor officially. All parties need to received a copy of the will (or portion of it). Property such as art collections, vehicles, tools, boats, furniture, antiques, jewelry, personal documents, photographs, and clothing have to be safeguarded by the executor. To protect these items, keep them where they are safe until distributed to the beneficiary as instructed in the will.

In the last months of handling the closing of someone’s estate, you will need to make an informal final accounting, including as paying remaining expenses, securing closing letters from the IRS, distributing reserves that were pending, preparing and submitting the any accounting to the heirs, transferring final distributions, and file a petition to be discharged of your executor duties and getting an Order to Close signed by the judge. As you can imagine, settling an estate can be a complex process, especially if you are in the midst of grief yourself. Consider reaching out to a Knoxville estate settlement attorney from Carpenter & Lewis PLLC if you need support, or have questions and concerns that must be addressed. We are just a phone call or email away.

Carpenter & Lewis Probate Attorney Consultation:

For a consultation with one of the probate attorneys at Carpenter & Lewis, please call (865) 690-4997 or you may prefer to send an e-mail to: [email protected]. Consultations are by appointment only.

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    10413 Kingston Pike, Suite 200

    Knoxville, Tennessee 37922

    New Clients:  (865) 509-9600

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