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. 

Probate Infographic

Common Examples Of Assets That Aren't Part Of The Probate Estate Infographic

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.

7 Essential Documents Needed For Probate Court

When a family is grieving over the loss of a loved one, the thought of facing the probate process can feel both overwhelming and daunting, which is why it may be in your best interest to seek the services of a qualified Knoxville, TN probate lawyer. Our dedicated team from Carpenter & Lewis PLLC are available to guide you through the process with care and legal guidance. One of the first steps in probate proceedings is ensuring you have all the necessary documentation in order. In this article, we’ll outline the seven essential documents you’ll need for probate court, providing you with clarity and peace of mind during this challenging time.

1. Last Will and Testament

The cornerstone of any probate case is the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. This legal document outlines the deceased’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and the appointment of an executor to oversee the probate process. Without a valid will, the court will distribute the assets according to state intestacy laws, which may not align with the deceased’s wishes.

2. Death Certificate

A certified copy of the death certificate is required to initiate probate proceedings. This document officially confirms the passing of the deceased and provides essential information such as the date and cause of death. It’s crucial to obtain multiple copies of the death certificate, as various institutions and agencies will require them during the probate process.

3. Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration

After the will has been submitted to the court, the appointed executor will need to obtain legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. This authority is granted through Letters Testamentary (if there is a valid will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no will or the named executor is unable to fulfill their duties). These documents empower the executor to manage the deceased’s assets, pay debts, and distribute inheritances according to the will or state law.

4. Inventory of Assets

One essential component for probate proceedings is to have a detailed inventory of the deceased’s assets. This document provides a comprehensive list of the deceased’s property, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal belongings, and any other assets of value. Our Knoxville probate lawyer will share that accurately valuing and documenting these assets ensures transparency and fairness in the distribution process.

5. Financial Account Statements:

Gathering financial account statements, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment portfolios, and life insurance policies, is crucial for probate court. These statements provide detailed information about the deceased’s financial holdings, debts, and beneficiaries, helping the executor fulfill their duties and settle the estate efficiently.

6. Debts and Liabilities Documentation

In addition to assets, it’s essential to compile documentation of the deceased’s debts and liabilities. This may include mortgage statements, credit card bills, outstanding loans, and any other obligations owed by the estate. Resolving these debts is a critical step in the probate process before distributing assets to beneficiaries.

7. Beneficiary Designations

Finally, it’s crucial to gather documentation related to beneficiary designations on accounts such as retirement plans, life insurance policies, and payable-on-death accounts. These designations override the instructions in the will, so it’s essential to ensure they are up to date and accurately reflect the deceased’s wishes.

Probate Infographic

7 Essential Documents Needed For Probate Court Infographic

Final Thoughts

To ensure a smooth probate process, it may be helpful to have a knowledgeable and compassionate legal team who can offer support every step of the way. By ensuring you have the seven essential documents outlined in this article, we can help streamline the probate proceedings and protect your interests every step of the way. If you’re in need of assistance with probate court matters, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for personalized guidance and support.

Contact Carpenter & Lewis PLLC today to schedule a consultation with a trusted Knoxville probate lawyer and take the first step towards navigating the probate process with confidence.

Knoxville Probate FAQs

Your Knoxville, TN probate lawyer can help you deal with the aftermath of your loss, especially if there are any disputes. This is where assistance from a knowledgeable attorney in estate management becomes indispensable.

Here at Carpenter & Lewis PLLC, we don’t try to handle every aspect of the law. We’re specialists, and we’re great at what we do. By focusing on estate and transactional law, we can provide the best service possible for your needs – and it all starts with answering your questions.

How Do I Know If I Need A Probate Law Specialist?

If you find yourself responsible for handling the estate of someone who has passed away, it may be wise to consult with a legal professional who specializes in estate management. This is particularly important if the estate includes multiple assets such as real estate, stocks, and other investments that require formal probate proceedings. Additionally, if there are any disputes among the heirs or potential creditors claiming against the estate, having an experienced attorney by your side can be invaluable.

How Long Does The Probate Process Usually Take With A Lawyer?

The duration of the probate process can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the estate and the specific laws of the state where the deceased resided. Typically, a straightforward estate might be settled within six to twelve months when a lawyer is involved. However, if there are complications such as disputes over the will or claims made by creditors, the process can extend significantly, often taking several years to resolve fully.

How Can I Avoid Probate?

One common way to circumvent the probate process is by organizing your assets so that they pass directly to beneficiaries upon your death. This can be achieved through mechanisms such as living trusts, joint ownership, and designations of beneficiaries on policies like life insurance and retirement accounts. These strategies can provide a smoother transition of your assets to your loved ones without the need for court involvement.

What Are The Consequences Of Avoiding Probate?

While avoiding probate can expedite the distribution of assets to your beneficiaries, there are potential consequences to consider. Without the probate process, there is less oversight to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. This can increase the risk of disputes among potential heirs. Furthermore, creditors might have a harder time claiming debts, which could potentially leave less protection for the deceased’s debtors.

What Can A Probate Attorney Do To Help With Disputes Over Inheritance?

A probate attorney who specializes in estate management is well-equipped to handle inheritance disputes. They can offer mediation services to help disputing parties reach an agreement that honors the wishes of the deceased and upholds legal standards. If a dispute escalates, having a legal professional on your team is essential to navigate the complexities of court proceedings effectively.

Contact Us Today

Dealing with the estate of a deceased relative can be a challenging and emotionally taxing experience. If you have questions about your specific situation, or if you need professional assistance with estate management, do not hesitate to reach out. Our dedicated team is ready to provide the support you need to manage your legal responsibilities with confidence. Contact us today, and see how a Knoxville probate attorney from our office can help.

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: [email protected]. Consultations are by appointment only.

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    10413 Kingston Pike, Suite 200

    Knoxville, Tennessee 37922

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