Probate & Estates
If you have a loved one who has recently passed away in Sparta, Cookeville, Crossville, Livingston, Spencer, McMinnville, or elsewhere in the Upper Cumberland region of Middle Tennessee, you may have a lot of questions about the process of settling his or her estate. As experienced White County probate attorneys, we are here to help guide you through the process, whether you need to probate your loved one’s last will and testament or, if he or she died without a will, open an intestate estate for him or her.
Traditionally, most wills are prepared by an attorney, who makes sure that the document is properly witnessed and notarized. Occasionally, there is a will contest, in which an heir challenges a will based on grounds such as undue influence or lack of capacity, but most wills prepared by an attorney will eventually be probated.
There are two other types of wills that are recognized by the Tennessee courts: holographic (handwritten by the testator) and nuncupative (oral). These types of wills are much more difficult to have admitted to probate and, even if they are admitted, may only serve to pass down a portion of the deceased person’s estate.
In recent years, we have also seen wills that were a combination – for instance, a do-it-yourself will obtained on the internet that was signed but not witnessed or perhaps witnessed but not notarized. Some such wills can be admitted to probate, but some cannot. (If you are considering a “do-in-yourself” will to save a few dollars, please understand that the increased cost of probating such a will typically outweighs the money that was saved by not speaking to an estate planning professional.) If there was no valid will, the testator’s property will pass by intestate succession, that is, the method established by the state legislature, via statue, for passing down a property when someone dies without a will.
The probate process for testate and intestate estates is similar. In a testate estate, typically the person who was named as executor or executrix in the will begins the process by taking the decedent’s will to an attorney’s office so that a petition to open probate can be filed. In an intestate estate, it is usually the next of kin who begins the process of opening the estate. An executor or personal representative is then appointed by the probate court, and he or she is charged with the duty of taking an inventory of the deceased person's property, reviewing and paying any claims that are filed by creditors, and seeing that any remaining property is passed down according to the will or the intestacy laws, as the case may be.
To schedule an appointment with one of our helpful Sparta probate attorneys, call us at (931) 837-2050. We look forward to serving your family's legal needs during this difficult time.