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What assets go through probate in Tennessee?

Not all assets in an estate need to go through probate. Learn more about the type of assets that can skip probate in Tennessee.

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When someone dies, the person's property, belongings, bank accounts, and other assets are distributed to their descendents in accordance with their will. Nonetheless, there are some instances where a probate court gets involved, even if the will lays out specific instructions.

The size of the estate often determines whether an estate needs to be probated, which is the legal process by which the will is validated and the nominated estate executor receives the authority to carry out their duties. The estate’s size is comprised of assets that require going through probate. However, there are some assets that can skip probate, thereby simplifying the process or even allowing executors to skip it altogether.

What is probate in Tennessee?

Probate is a legal process that validates the last will and testament of a person who has died, appoints an executor (if one is not named in the will) and oversees the distribution of assets outlined in the will.

Probate court also gets involved with estates where the person who died does not leave a will. In these cases, the court appoints an executor and seeks the people with the closest family ties to the deceased and awards them the assets of the estate according to specific succession laws.

The probate process usually takes between six months and one year if no one contests the will or any other legal issues crop up.

What assets are subject to probate in Tennessee?

Not all assets have to go through the probate process in Tennessee. If assets have a named beneficiary or are jointly held, then they usually go straight to the beneficiary or the surviving owner without needing to be probated. However, the following assets do require probate:

  • Real estate held in the deceased's name only. If the deceased is the only name on the deed, then it will need to go through the probate process, in most cases.
  • Personal property in the deceased's name. This includes boats, motorcycles, cars, and RVs as well as artwork, furniture, and the contents of his or her home.
  • Bank and other financial accounts. Checking accounts, savings accounts, brokerage accounts, certificates of deposit, and the like must go through probate if they have only the deceased's name on the account.

What assets are exempt from probate in Tennessee?

Some assets are transferred directly without having to go through the probate process. These include:

  • Assets with joint ownership. This includes real estate property, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and other assets that are owned by two or more people. When one person dies, the asset is automatically transferred to the other owner(s).
  • Property held in tenancy by the entirety. This is a legal vehicle that transfers real estate directly to a surviving spouse at the death of the other. You must set it up prior to the person's death.
  • Financial accounts with payable-upon-death beneficiaries. Financial accounts that are set up as payable-upon-death accounts pass to the beneficiary at the death of the account holder without having to go through the probate process.
  • Transfer-on-death assets. Residents of Tennessee can name transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiaries for assets like securities and other investment accounts. These also avoid probate.
  • Proceeds from life insurance policies. The proceeds of life insurance policies or annuities that specify a beneficiary do not have to go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts. Funds in retirement accounts do not have to go through probate as long as the account holder has named a beneficiary.
  • Assets held in a living trust. Assets that are held in a living trust are not subject to probate, since they are no longer considered to be part of the estate.

Simplified probate for small estates

If the person's estate is valued at no more than $50,000 and does not include real estate, then the state of Tennessee offers a simplified, less time-consuming version of probate. To use this method, the executor must send an affidavit to the court outlining the estate's assets and debts, along with a death certificate and contact information of all beneficiaries. The court will rule whether it will allow the simplified probate within 45 days. If allowed, the assets can then transfer directly to the heirs.

To learn more about how probate works in Tennessee and what assets are subject to the court procedure, reach out and schedule a free consultation with ClearEstate. Our knowledgeable and friendly estate professionals are happy to answer any questions you have and provide assistance as needed.

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