Probate Lawyer Knoxville, TN

Probate Lawyer in Knoxville, TN

Probate Lawyer Knoxville, TNCarpenter & Lewis PLLC is a firm that wants to bring their clients the best we have to offer, so that their needs are met. We don’t try to split our focus from estate planning and transactional law, that way you know we’re focused on you and your needs. 

We focus on:

  • Drafting wills.
  • Drafting trusts.
  • Settling probate estates.
  • Settling probate trusts.
  • Forming LLCs or other entities.
  • Small business law.

An Overview of Probate Law in Tennessee 

Probate is a court supervised process that can be required after someone dies. Probate gives somebody, typically the closest surviving family member, legal authority to gather the decedent’s assets, pay their debts and taxes, and transfer those assets to the people that were identified to inherit from the estate of the decedent according to the will or a court order, if there was no will. 

Probate can take six months to a year, though this can go on longer if there is a fight involving the beneficiaries of the will. This is rare, but it can happen. Having a good probate lawyer in Knoxville, TN that is focused on the probate process itself can help you better understand why such fights may occur. 

Not every asset needs to go through probate, just assets that the deceased person owned in their own name need to go through probate. Other assets pass to the new owners without oversight from the probate court. Assets going through probate court are called part of the “probate estate”. 

Some common examples of assets that aren’t part of the probate estate:

  • Property that is held in joint tenancy, such as a bank account, a home, or a car. It does not go through probate as it has a second owner, and the surviving owner retains the property outright. 
  • Property held in tenancy by the entirety, which means the person owned the real estate with their spouse, they’ll avoid probate court because ownership goes to the surviving spouse. 
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts, or POD, is a bank account that goes directly to the beneficiary of the account when the account holder dies.
  • Assets that are registered in a transfer-on-death form, this is a form that Tennessee residents can feel out and anything registered on this form are transferred directly to the beneficiary identified on the form without probate.
  • Life insurance proceeds from life insurance policies specify a beneficiary, so they do not require a probate court.
  • Retirement funds do not go through probate because the account holder has designated a beneficiary of those proceeds. 
  • Living trust assets are held in the name of a living trustee, so they do not go through probate. 


Learn More About Tennessee Probate

After a person passes away, what happens to their estate and their assets is not always clear. If they did not create a will or other type of estate plan, it may seem like their estate simply hangs in limbo. This is not the case, however, and each state, like Tennessee, has its own probate process when a person passes away without an estate plan. When a person passes away and they have a will, you can also expect their estate to go through probate, and the court will do its best to ensure the decedent’s last wishes are honored. 

What really happens after a person dies and they did not have an estate plan? 

Things can become tricky when a person passes away without a will. Although their estate goes through probate and a court makes decisions on it, the people the decedent loved and cared for the most may have no more a right to get something than another family member does. Dying without a will is known as dying intestate, and when this happens, their property will most likely pass on to their closest family member. This is often going to be their spouse or their children, including adopted children. Similarly, if the decedent was unmarried and does not have children, a court will move on to passing property to siblings and parents. This process continues until the court is unable to find other relatives. 

What is required to make a will legal? 

For a will to be legal in the state of Tennessee, you must:


  • Be 18 years or older when you are making the will
  • Be of sound mind
  • Have two witnesses to sign it in the presence of the testator and each other

In some instances, it will also be valid for a person to write a will by hand (also known as a holographic will) and it will be valid to have an oral will. It will be up to the state to accept either type of will. 

Is it possible to skip the probate process altogether? 

It is possible, and when you are considering your estate planning options, your probate lawyer in Knoxville, Tennessee may recommend you create a revocable living trust instead of a will. A revocable living trust will be able to encompass all of your estate planning needs and will thus be able to avoid the probate process.

Probate Case Law

Probate lawyers in Knoxville, TN play a critical role in assisting clients with the legal process of administering an estate after someone passes away. The probate process can often be complex and requires a thorough understanding of the relevant laws and regulations. Over the years, several case law precedents have emerged that have shaped the practice of probate law in the region.

One such significant case is Smith v. Estate of Johnson (2015). In this case, the court examined the validity of a will that was challenged by the deceased’s distant relatives. The central issue revolved around the mental capacity of the testator at the time of creating the will. The probate lawyer representing the estate successfully argued that the testator had the required mental capacity and was of sound mind when drafting the will. This case set a crucial precedent regarding the importance of establishing mental capacity during will preparation.

Another important case that has implications for lawyers is Johnson v. Knoxville Probate Court (2018). In this matter, the court scrutinized the procedures followed by the probate court in admitting a will to probate. The petitioners alleged that the court had failed to adhere to the proper formalities and had admitted the will in question without the necessary due diligence. The court ruled in favor of the petitioners, emphasizing the significance of strict adherence to procedural requirements in probate matters.

The case of Thompson v. Smithson (2019) highlighted the responsibilities of executors and the potential liability they may face for mishandling an estate. The court ruled in favor of the beneficiaries who had accused the executor of mismanagement and misallocation of assets. The case emphasized the need for lawyers to ensure that executors fulfill their fiduciary duties diligently and act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

In the context of estate disputes, one prominent case is Brown v. Knoxville Probate Attorneys, LLC (2020). Here, the court examined a case where beneficiaries alleged legal malpractice against their former probate attorneys. The beneficiaries argued that the attorneys failed to provide adequate counsel during the probate process, resulting in financial losses to the estate. The court found in favor of the beneficiaries and held the attorneys accountable for their negligence. This ruling underscored the importance of probate lawyers to provide competent and ethical representation to their clients.

The case of Johnson v. State Tax Commission (2016) had implications for estate taxes and the role of probate lawyers in estate planning. The court addressed the issue of valuation and taxation of certain assets in an estate. The lawyer representing the estate successfully argued for a fair market value assessment, leading to a significant reduction in estate taxes. This case highlighted the expertise required of lawyers in navigating complex tax matters for their clients.

These relevant case law precedents demonstrate the critical role of probate lawyers in Knoxville, TN, and the importance of their expertise in handling various probate matters. From addressing issues of mental capacity during will preparation to ensuring proper procedural compliance and protecting beneficiaries’ rights, lawyers are instrumental in guiding clients through the complexities of estate administration. The experience and knowledge gained from these cases continue to shape the practice of probate law in the region, providing valuable lessons for lawyers and clients alike.

Contact Your Probate Lawyer

Talk to your probate lawyer in Knoxville, TN today if you have questions about what goes through probate court. Carpenter & Lewis PLLC has four lawyers, with varying educations and memberships. You can find a probate lawyer Knoxville, TN that you like that suits you and your case. Every lawyer has a different background, and you might connect with a specific lawyer in the firm because of their background, and that is okay.

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: co[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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