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P. O. Box 4369
Chattanooga, TN 37405
United States


Tidwell & Associates is a Chattanooga, TN based law firm serving as counsel to businesses and individuals.
Areas of law practice include: insurance, defense litigation, commercial litigation, construction litigation, litigation, civil rights defense, probate, divorce, criminal defense, and business law.

News & Updates

8 Questions About Probate Answered By A Lawyer

Dianne Blankenbaker

One of the hardest parts of losing a loved one is figuring out what to do with their estate. Will you assume any of their debts? Did they leave certain items to family members or a spouse? Do you need estate administration? What does probate even mean?

Probate is the process in which a deceased person’s estate is valued and distributed to all who are legally entitled to it. This includes the reading of a will, if one is available, the valuation of all relevant assets, and how those assets are distributed to creditors and family members.

 So now that you know what the probate process entails, you can begin to take steps in the right direction. In this article, we give you some helpful answers to questions you might have  -- and even to some you haven’t thought of yet. 

1.What happens if the deceased doesn’t have a will?

Although it is best to have a will, the document is not necessary for entering the probate process of dispersing their estate. Tennessee has specific laws to determine what measures are taken to ensure that there is proper probate administration, even in the absence of a will.

2. How do I know if my loved one has a will?

In Tennessee, unlike many other states, there is no option to register a will at the courthouse or anywhere else. The best way to find out whether someone has a will is to search his or her belongings or personal files for any necessary paperwork. If you don’t find any evidence of a will, you can also contact the Chattanooga Bar Association (423-756-3222), and they will contact their members to see if any area lawyers have information on this person’s will.

3. Should I probate the estate?

The best way to know if continuing into probate is the right option for you is to contact a probate lawyer. Because of the complexity of real estate holdings, bank accounts, investment accounts, and other financial holdings that are only in the name of the deceased, probate may be a necessity. Other factors that may require going into probate are pending lawsuits, debt issues, or family disputes.

4. If my spouse passes away, what happens to our estate?

In Tennessee, a spouse has many privileges when it comes to their partner’s estate. If you own a home under both of your names, you, as the surviving spouse, automatically have all the rights to the house. In addition, a spouse can’t be written out of a will, and under no circumstances can the surviving spouse receive less than a third of the estate, not counting the home. This percentage is based on the number of children you have and can even reach 100 percent. Other benefits you may receive include a year of support, household goods, the family vehicle, and other essential items.

5. Are estate taxes expensive?

In a majority of situations it is not. In many cases, the government has eliminated estate taxes altogether.

6. How long does probate take?

This can depend on the form of probate that is needed. If a will is present, the transfer of real estate can happen as quickly as in a single day. However, full probate can take up to six months because of a four-month period in which creditors can file claims. If problems arise from creditor claims, then the timing becomes dependent on how complex the circumstances are.

7. Can issues cause delays in the probate process?

It depends on how smoothly the process runs. Complications such as family members contesting the will, claims filed against the estate, selling real estate, or liquidating assets can affect the timeline. Any time an issue arises, the process will usually take longer.

8. Are probate lawyers expensive?

Probate attorneys typically charge by the hour, so the cost is directly connected to how much time is needed to finish the job. The price can be as low as $2,500 if there are no complications, but the more complicated and lengthy the probate process is, the more it will cost.

Do you have other questions? We have more than 40 combined years of probate experience. You can call us to schedule a free, no pressure consultation. Visit us online for more information, or call us now at 423-602-7511.