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Q:  Do I need an attorney to probate an estate in Tennessee?
A:  It is very important to hire an attorney to handle the probate of any estate in Tennessee. It can be a very complicated process that requires detailed knowledge of Tennessee Probate law and court procedures. There are many Tennessee statutes that mandate required deadlines that must be complied with in order to properly probate an estate.

Additionally, in Davidson County Tennessee (Nashville Tennessee) all filings by fiduciaries (executor, personal representative, administrator etc.) must be filed by licensed attorneys under Davidson County Probate Court local rule 39.01.

Q:  How much is the Tennessee Inheritance Tax exemption?
A:  The Tennessee Inheritance Tax exemption was changed by legislation in 2012. The exemption amounts (by year of death) are as follows:

2012 - $1,000,000.00
2013 - $1,250,000.00
2014 - $2,000,000.00
2015 - $5,000,000.00
2016 and after – The Tennessee Inheritance Tax is abolished.

Q:  In Tennessee what county do you file a petition to probate a will for a deceased?
A:  The short answer to this question is that a petition to probate a will should be filed in the deceased individual’s usual county of residence at the time of death. If the deceased individual had multiple fixed places of residence in multiple counties, then the petition to probate the will can be filed in any of those counties. See T.C.A. § 32-2-101

Q:  What are probate assets in Tennessee?
A:  Probate assets are assets in an estate that most likely require the formal probate administration process. This usually requires the hiring of a probate attorney to assist in handling the probate process.

Probate assets include the following:

1. Any 401k, IRA, or any other kind of retirement plan that designates the estate of the decedent as a beneficiary.
2. Any life insurance policy of the decedent that lists the estate as a beneficiary.
3. Any asset that is titled in the decedent's name without any designation of a beneficiary or without joint ownership with another individual.
4. Any asset that is titled in the decedent's name that has anther individual listed on the title as "tenants in common".

Q:  What are some of the reasons to have a will in Tennessee?
A:  Reason Number Three - To try to reduce the likelihood for disagreements and disputes among family members, friends and potential beneficiaries/heirs after your death.

Reason Number Two - To decide who will be the legal guardian for your children after your death.

Reason Number One - To decide where your assets and money go after your death.

Q:  What assets are not probate assets under Tennessee Law?
A:  Certain assets are not considered probate assets in Tennessee. These assets pass outside of the probate process. These include the following:

1. Any 401k plan, IRA plan or any other type of retirement plan that designates a specific beneficiary (other than where the beneficiary is designated as the decedent's estate).
2. Any asset including bank accounts, real estate, automobiles or other assets that are titled in the name of the deceased individual and another individual as joint tenants or tenants by the entirety with right of survivorship. These assets pass immediately upon death to the other individual.
3. Any asset of any kind that are titled in the decedent's name with a "transfer on death" or "pay on death" designation for a specific beneficiary other than the decedent's estate.
4. Any life insurance policy which has a specific beneficiary designated other than the estate of the deceased individual.

Q:  What does it mean to die "intestate" under Tennessee law?
A:  "Intestate" simply means that someone dies without a will. As a result, their estate passes pursuant to Tennessee statutes governing intestate estates. It is very important for people to not die intestate (without a will) so they can make the decisions about how their estate will be handled.

If you die intestate then the State of Tennessee or another state will make all of the decisions about your estate including:

1) Who gets your assets?
2) Who becomes the guardian of your children?
3) Who is the Administrator of your estate?
4) Who is the Trustee of your estate if any trust is created for minor children?

These are serious decisions that should be made by you, not the State.

Q:  What does it mean to die "testate" under Tennessee Law?
A:  "Testate" simply means that someone died with a will. Their assets and possessions largely pass based upon the language in their properly executed will document.

Q:  What is the priority for who should be considered to be appointed as a conservator for a "disabled person"?
A:  T.C.A. § 34-3-103 provides a list of those individuals that the court should consider for appointment as the conservator for the “disabled person.” This statute provides the following list of priority:

(1) The person or persons designated in a writing signed by the alleged disabled person;
(2) The spouse of the disabled person;
(3) Any child of the disabled person;
(4) Closest relative or relatives of the disabled person; and
(5) Other person or persons.

Q:  What types of wills are available in Tennessee?
A:  There are three different types of wills under Tennessee law.

(1) Normal will with execution completed pursuant to T.C.A. § 32-1-104.
(2) Holographic will pursuant to T.C.A. § 32-1-105 (in handwriting of the testator).
(3) Nuncupative will pursuant to T.C.A. § 32-1-106 (will completed while in imminent peril of death).

Q:  Who can file a petition for the appointment of a conservator in Tennessee?
A:  T.C.A. § 34-3-102 provides that anyone who has knowledge of the circumstances necessitating the appointment of a conservator can petition the court for one. As a result, the only requirement is the petitioner must have knowledge of the circumstances.

Q:  Who is qualified to make a will under Tennessee law?
A:  T.C.A. § 32-1-102 provides that "any person of sound mind eighteen (18) years of age or older may make a will." As a result, for a person to make a valid will they must be of sound mind and at least 18 years of age.


Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Copyright © 2018, Jason A. Lee. All Rights Reserved
Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com