Areas of Practice » Probate

The Probate Process in the State of Tennessee

With your appointment by the Court as Executor or Administrator of the Estate, the administration of the estate begins. The purpose of this information is to provide you with an outline of the steps to be taken during the administration of the estate, and of the various important duties and dates you must keep in mind.

These matters are set forth in their approximate order of occurrence.

1. INVENTORY: You are required to file an inventory of the Estate and all assets which have come into your possession and control. The inventory will be due two months after the date the estate was opened, unless waived.

2. NOTICE TO CREDITORS: According to a recent Supreme Court ruling, you must give actual notice to the creditors if you have their addresses. The Probate Court is required by Tennessee law to publish in a local newspaper a Notice to Creditors of the Estate informing them they must come forward with their claims in order to be paid. Before the amount owing each creditor of the Estate can be paid, the creditor must file a claim with the Court. This is true even though you know the creditor is justly owed the money. There is a limited exception which will allow you to pay the claim of a creditor if the amount owed is $1,000 or less. If the creditor does not file the required claim within four months from the date the notice was published, the creditor cannot enforce payment of the amounts due him.

The Notice to Creditors will be published one week after the estate is opened, and the last date for a creditor to file a claim against the Estate is four months from the Notice of First Publication. It is essential that you make a list of all the decedent’s creditors that you know about so that they can be notified as soon as possible.

3. U.S. ESTATE TAX RETURN: If the value of the Estate before any deduction or claims against it exceeds $2,000,000 in 2006, 2007, 2008 and $3,500,000 in 2009, you will be required to file a U. S. Estate Tax Return.

4. TENNESSEE INHERITANCE TAX RETURN: You need an Inheritance Tax clearance to close the court proceedings. If the value of the Estate is less than $1,000,000 in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, you will be permitted to file the short form return. The fact that the return is due does not necessarily mean there will be any tax to pay.

5. U.S. INCOME TAX RETURN FOR THE ESTATE: The Estate is a separate taxpayer, and its income must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service the same as the income of a natural person. If the Estate receives income from dividends on stock, interest on savings accounts or certificates of deposit or other sources of income, and the income exceeds $600, the Estate is required to file a U. S. Income Tax Return. As your attorney, we will work with you to determine if it is necessary to file such a return. If so, you will then elect a tax year and determine the due date.

6. TENNESSEE INCOME TAX RETURN FOR THE ESTATE: If the Estate receives income as stated in Paragraph 5 above in excess of $1,250, a Tennessee Income Tax Return for the Estate will be required. As your attorney, we will work with you in determining if this is necessary and, if so, the due date.

7. INVESTMENT OF ASSETS: You are required to invest the Estate assets to produce income; however, you are limited by law as to the types of investments you can make with the Estate assets. Some require court approval. As your attorney, we will work with you in determining the best investment to produce income for the assets available.

8. TITLE OF ASSETS: To avoid complications, title to each asset coming into your possession which belongs to the Estate should be as follows: ESTATE OF _______ by _______, Executor or Administrator.

9. REPORTS TO THE COURT: In some instances, you are required to make periodic reports to the court setting forth assets you have received, income earned and expenditures made. A separate checking account should be opened for the Estate to keep this information separate and apart from your personal account. You will need a copy of your Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration in order to open the Estate account. Also, any reports will be prepared by our office from information furnished by you concerning the Estate, and filed by our office with the Court. Hopefully, the administration of this Estate can be completed timely and expeditiously and thus avoid the necessity of numerous reports.

10. FINAL REPORT AND DISTRIBUTION TO BENEFICIARIES: When everything in the Estate has been taken care of and you are ready to make final distribution to the beneficiaries, you may be required to make a final report to the court. When you are ready to make your final distribution to the beneficiaries, you will need an appointment so that we can prepare the proper distribution and receipt for the beneficiary to sign. No distribution to a beneficiary should be made without first contacting the attorney.

11. INFORMATION LETTERS: If necessary, our office will send out information letters to various banks, insurance companies and others who may have information regarding the deceased's Estate, which will be needed to properly handle the Estate. You will be furnished copies of these various items of correspondence to keep you properly informed. Our office will keep you advised of the progress in this matter and be in touch with you periodically concerning certain matters which need attention.

Information to bring to your free consultation about the administration of an estate

  • The Last Will and Testament of the decedent (If there was no Last Will and Testament, my office can begin an "Administration" of the Estate. The same process takes place except the law, not the Will, determines the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries.)
  • Decedent’s date and place of birth and date and place of death
  • Death Certificate
  • Decedent’s Social Security number
  • Decedent’s complete address
  • Surviving spouse’s name, address and Social Security number
  • Addresses and Social Security numbers of the beneficiaries
  • Funeral expenses
  • Any liabilities of the decedent
  • List of assets: make and model of car, bank accounts (individual or joint) with account numbers and name/address of bank, securities, furnishings, money owed to decedent (by name, address and amount), insurance (include name, address, policy number and face value)
  • Real property, both individual and joint (address, value, mortgage owed, mortgage company’s name and address)

To contact Fullen & Townsend Attorneys about this area of practice, please send an email to: probate@tommylfullen.com.