named estate representative of will

Ask the Probate Lawyer: What to do if you’re named as Executor in a Will.

Probate Lawyer for Personal Representative of Estate

If you’ve been designated to serve as the Personal Representative (sometimes also called Executor or Executrix) in a Will, you will need to hire a Probate Lawyer to handle the Estate in Probate Court. Don’t worry: the attorney fees charged by the Probate Lawyer will typically come out of the funds of the Estate, not from your own personal assets.

Once you’ve hired a Probate Lawyer, you’ll meet with the attorney and begin to gather all pertinent information. The attorney will prepare and file documents to petition the Probate Court to admit the deceased person’s Will for probate administration.

Can’t I just handle the business of the Estate Myself?

No.  In Tennessee, the administration of an Estate must be done with the assistance of a licensed  attorney. Many people mistakenly believe that if you are named as the Personal Representative in a Will, then you only need a copy of the Will and an I.D. to conduct business on behalf of the deceased person or the Estate, but this is not correct. To legally transact business on behalf of the Estate, you must be officially appointed by the Probate Court and present the proper authorization.

Do I have to go to Probate Court?

Yes, if the deceased person had assets or accounts that do not have a joint owner or a beneficiary named. You will have to go to Probate Court with the attorney to prove the Will and to be officially appointed by the Probate Judge as the Personal Representative of the Estate.  At this court appearance, the attorney will address the judge and you will be asked certain questions about the deceased person and the Will.  The Probate Judge will then review the Will and the proof and decide whether or not to admit the Will for probate. If the Will is admitted, you, as the Personal Representative, will then be sworn in as a fiduciary, and you will be issued “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration,” which will allow you to legally conduct business on behalf of the Estate.

Required Steps in Probate Administration

Once the Estate has been opened and you’ve been officially appointed to serve, you will complete the following required steps with the help of your Probate Lawyer:

(1)   Establish a separate bank account for the Estate;

(2)   Give notice to beneficiaries of the opening of the Estate;

(3)   Give notice to creditors and TennCare of the opening of the estate;

(4)   File affidavits regarding notice to beneficiaries and TennCare;

(5)   File annual accountings and inventories; and

(6)   Collect the deceased person’s assets and distribute them amongst the beneficiaries. 

Do I Get Paid for the Time and Expenses I Incur While Serving as a Personal Representative? 

Yes. A Personal Representative is entitled to reimbursement of expenses that he or she personally incurs in administering the Estate. A Personal Representative is entitled to a reasonable fee at the conclusion of the administration of the estate. However, the position is truly more of a responsibility than a profitable endeavor. There is a significant amount of work for the Personal Representative to do. The amount of the fee depends on a number of factors, which the Probate Lawyer will discuss with you. 

How long does the Probate Process take?

An Estate must remain open for a minimum of 4 months to allow creditors time to file any claims.  On average, it has been our experience that 6-9 months is a reasonable estimate of the time it takes to conclude the administration of an Estate if everything is straightforward.  In some cases, it can take 12-15 months.  If an Estate takes longer than 15 months to administer, it generally means that there has been a problem that has arisen during the process, such as a tax problem, a will contest, or even the presentation of an unknown heir.

Let us be your Probate Lawyer. We can help. 

Call us at 901-372-5003 if you need help. If you hire us, we’ll walk you through the entire process and do our best to make your job as Personal Representative as easy for you as possible. We handle probate cases throughout Tennessee and Mississippi, including in Shelby County, Memphis, Bartlett, Arlington, Germantown, and Cordova.

Other References:

Visit our website  to find answers to common Probate and Estate Planning questions.

Shelby County Probate Court

Davidson County Probate Court

 

Can my Fitbit be used as evidence against me?

By:            Erin Shea

fitbit can be used by injury lawyer

Can my Fitbit® data be used as evidence in court?

As I was driving to work yesterday, I heard an advertisement for a Local News Story on Fox 13 about potential unintended consequences of using one of those trendy new fitness tracker devices, such as the Fitbit®. This piqued my interest for a couple of different reasons: (1) My husband bought me a Fitbit® for my birthday recently, and (2) Part of my job as a lawyer involves looking for information to either support or weaken a particular factual claim being made by someone in a lawsuit, and doesn’t a fitness tracker record accurate and factual information?

Using Fitbit® Data as Evidence in Court Cases

What could be the unintended consequence of using a fitness tracker? Relevant to my job as a lawyer, Fox 13’s story and this article discuss how fitness tracking data can make or break a court case.

I haven’t seen any reported appellate decisions in Tennessee yet discussing the admissibility of fitness tracking data at trial, but I’m sure they are coming. Also, even if the data never sees the inside of a courtroom, there are other uses for it, including using the information to secure other evidence or as a negotiation point during settlement talks.

For example, if a person in a personal injury suit is making a claim that they can no longer walk more than a few steps at a time, but the person’s Fitbit® data shows that the person is taking 20,000 steps a day, I would argue that the claim is being exaggerated.  On a somewhat related topic, I will never forget an old case I worked on where the injured person claimed he could no longer run races, but his social media accounts showed several post-race photographs that were taken after the accident.

Moral of the Story

Don’t forget that your electronic devices, including fitness tracking devices like a Fitbit®, are collecting data and information about you.  Think about how that data might be used to help or hurt you because you can be sure that the lawyers are!

Need a Lawyer?

erin shea, injury lawyer at wiseman bray memphisCall  me or any of the other lawyers at Wiseman Bray PLLC  at (901) 372-5003. We’d be glad to help you. We handle cases in Memphis, Cordova, Germantown, Bartlett, Arlington, Lakeland,  Shelby County, and throughout Tennessee and Mississippi.  If we can’t help you, we’ll point you in the right direction.

 

Justice Antonin Scalia: Quotes from Lang Wiseman and Erin Shea

scalia wiseman bray lang wiseman erin shea

Justice Scalia, Photo by: University of Memphis

No doubt your news feed is filled with posts about the passing of United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, like this and this. We at Wiseman Bray, PLLC are saddened by the loss of Justice Scalia.

“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see and hear Scalia in person a few times, the first time being when I looked up and saw him sitting in the back row of one my classes at Harvard Law.  He was an absolutely brilliant scholar.  Whether you shared his views or not, he was able to articulate his thoughts in a manner that made him one of the most transformational legal figures of the last century.  He was the rock star of the conservative legal movement, and yet so charming and genteel that even those who disagreed with him couldn’t help but appreciate his intellect.”   Lang Wiseman

“I had the pleasure of hearing Justice Scalia speak at a luncheon in Memphis in 2013. I specifically remember being in awe of his wisdom in discussing the Constitution and the practice of law.  It’s not every day that you are exposed to people like him, and that is a day I will always remember.”    Erin Shea

 

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, TN  38018

(901) 372-5003

 

Insurance Claim Deadlines May be Shorter Than You Think

insurance-deadline - contact memphis insurance lawyerSuppose your insurance company denies your claim – whether for a fire loss, water damage, theft, or storm damage. How long do you have to file a lawsuit against the insurance company? Well, it may not be as long as you think, so be careful! The best thing you can do to make sure you preserve your insurance claim case is to consult with an insurance lawyer as soon as possible.

Insurance Policies Can Shorten Time for Filing Suit

While an insurance policy is a contract, and the “regular” deadline (a/k/a the statute of limitation) on contract claims in Tennessee is usually 6 years, your homeowners policy almost certainly has a much shorter “contractual statute of limitations” provision hidden in the fine print. In most cases, that shorter contractual deadline is only 1 year, and sometimes even shorter.

Immunity and Loss Settlement Periods in an Insurance Policy

An insurance policy usually provides for a period of immunity, or loss settlement period, during which you can’t sue the insurance company. This is to give the company time to investigate your claim before having to respond to it.  Many policies provide for 45-60 day periods. In some cases, the immunity period may expire before they actually finish investigating your claim, or before you receive a payment or denial. Because of this, Tennessee case law provides that your time to file suit begins to run following the “accrual of the cause of action” against your insurance company.

What does “accrual of the cause of action” mean?

The “accrual of the cause of action” against the insurance company occurs – and thus the clock starts ticking on your deadline – when the immunity period expires, or when the insurance company denies your claim, whichever comes first.

In some cases, depending on what the policy says, an insurance company’s immunity period may be extended if it continues to actively investigate a claim and request information beyond the time stated in the policy. It is critical that you consult with an insurance attorney to determine the applicable deadlines in your insurance claim case.

Important Dates in an Insurance Claim

If you have an insurance claim, keep all of your claim-related papers in one place. Look at your policy and figure out the loss settlement period.  If you don’t have a copy of your policy, ask for one. Keep any letters or emails you send to or receive from the insurance company. Record, be aware of, and keep up with the following dates:

  • Date of loss
  • Dates of claim payments
  • Dates of correspondence or phone conversations with the insurance company
  • Date of Denial

Don’t Wait Too Late to Involve an Insurance Lawyer

Determining insurance claim deadlines can be complicated, confusing, and depends on a number of factors. The insurance company understands how these time frames and deadlines work, and because adjusting insurance claims and reading insurance policies probably isn’t what you do for a living, you are at a disadvantage, especially in a complex or large loss insurance claim.

Call us sooner rather than later if you feel like your homeowners insurance claim is not being handled or paid properly.

  • Insurance policy language is confusing and it doesn’t always mean what it sounds like.
  • Your insurance adjuster is not your advocate.
  • We know insurance law. We will apply insurance policy language to your advantage.
  • We understand how insurance deadlines work.
  • You’ve paid your premiums for all of these years. Don’t lose out on a technicality.

 

Let us help you with your insurance claim case. Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003.  We have offices in Memphis and Nashville. Don’t wait too late and lose your legal right to recover.

Lawsuit Deadlines: How long do I have to file a lawsuit in Tennessee?

lawsuit deadlines, personal injury lawyer memphis

Don’t let lawsuit deadlines kill your case before it even starts.

In Tennessee, there are lawsuit deadlines called “statutes of limitations,” so it is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may need to file a lawsuit.  If you wait too late, you may lose your ability to seek a remedy or recovery in court.

Why are there statutes of limitation or lawsuit deadlines?

Statutes of limitation serve a number of purposes.  They promote stability in personal and business relationships; they prevent undue delay in filing lawsuits; they help to avoid uncertainty in pursuing and defending old claims; and they help to ensure that evidence is preserved and not lost due to the lapse of time, fading memories, or death of witnesses or parties.

What time limit applies to my case?

It depends on what kind of case you have. Even our courts sometimes struggle with which statute of limitation applies. Generally, a court looks to the “gravamen” of the complaint to determine which statute of limitation applies. Think of the “gravamen” as the “real purpose” or the “main point” of a lawsuit.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises  said that when determining the gravamen of a complaint in order to decide which statute of limitation applies, “a court must first consider the legal basis of the claim and then consider the type of injuries for which damages are sought. This analysis is necessarily fact-intensive and requires a careful examination of the allegations of the complaint as to each claim for the types of injuries asserted and damages sought.”

You may have multiple legal theories and claims available to you in your case, but those claims could have different statutes of limitation that will affect your ability to recover.  Because this analysis can be difficult, and it is to your advantage to include as many viable claims for recovery as possible, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Statutes of Limitation in Tennessee for Common Claims

Below are statutes of limitation for common types of claims. There are others, so make sure and consult with an attorney to make sure you understand what time limit applies to your case.

  • Personal injury or wrongful death – 1 year
  • Property damage – 3 years
  • Conversion – 3 years
  • Breach of Contract – 6 years
  • Fraud/Misrepresentation – 3 years
  • Legal or medical malpractice – 1 year
  • Consumer Protection Act claims – 1 year
  • Sale of Goods Contract Claims – 4 years
  • Slander (spoken defamation) – 6 months
  • Libel (written defamation) – 1 year

Exceptions

There are certain exception to the statutes of limitation in Tennessee, but you should never assume an exception will apply to your case. For example, if a person took active steps to keep you from discovering an injury or claim (i.e., fraudulent concealment), then you may have additional time to file suit.

Courts will not allow you extra time to file suit simply because you did not know the applicable statute of limitation, or because you suffered an injury but didn’t find out the full facts or extent of your damage until later in time. Consult with an attorney as soon as you think you have a claim.

Don’t Lose Your Ability to Recover. Call us today.

Statutes of limitations and lawsuit deadlines can kill your case before it even starts. If you think you may have a legal claim against someone, please call us today at 901-372-5003 or email us here. Don’t wait too late and lose your ability to file suit or recover damages. Let the attorneys of Wiseman Bray PLLC help you today.

I No Longer Want to Own Property with a Partner – How Do I Break Up?

picket-fencesImagine you and a partner purchase a rental property in the hopes of generating additional income.  Or perhaps you jointly inherit some property.  You own the property as tenants in common, meaning that you each own a ½ interest. You’re each responsible for ½ the property taxes and expenses, as well as ½ of any rental income.

A few years later, you decide you want out.  The income (when there is any) doesn’t seem worth the headache, and in some years, you even wind up paying more than your share of the expenses because your partner can’t seem to keep a steady day job.  The two of you don’t get along anymore and you really just want out. What can you do?

The law in Tennessee does not require you to continue owning property jointly with another person if you don’t want to. If you can’t reach agreement with your partner about an exit plan, then you can file what is referred to as a partition lawsuit.    There are two ways a Court can partition, and it depends on the particular facts of any given case. You will likely need an attorney to help you navigate the particular circumstances of your case.

Partition “in kind”

If a Court partitions a piece of land “in kind,” it means the property will be physically divided among the co-owners – almost quite literally splitting the baby.  An example would be if two people owned a two acre tract of raw land and the Court simply divided it in half, giving each person one of the two acres.

Partition “by sale”

A partition “by sale” is exactly what it sounds like. The Court will order a sale of the property and then distribute the money proceeds to the parties. The  Tennessee Code provides that a party is entitled to a partition by sale if either (1) the property is situated such that it can’t be divided, or (2) when it would be manifestly to the advantage of the parties for the property to be sold instead of divided.   For example, a Court can’t split a house and give each person half, so it would instead order the house to be sold.

Expenses and Distribution of Income

What if you paid more than your share of expenses prior to filing the lawsuit, or what if you don’t think the rental income was distributed properly? In a partition lawsuit, you can ask the Court to award you that money in addition to what you are owed for your ownership interest. The key to recovering this additional money is proving the amount you are owed. Hopefully, you have kept, or can obtain, records concerning your income and expenses associated with the property. In some cases, you might be able to obtain financial records during the partition lawsuit that may help prove what you are owed.

Settlement or Partition Lawsuit?  We can help.

If you currently own a piece of property with another person and you’ve decided you no longer want to continue in the joint ownership, we can help you fashion a solution.  Filing a lawsuit should not be your first step in any dispute, but a partition action is an available legal tool if an agreement can’t be reached. We are experienced at helping our clients negotiate resolutions without the necessity of filing a lawsuit; however, because we are trial attorneys, we know our way around the courthouse and are prepared to file and handle a partition action on your behalf, if necessary.   Please call us today at 901-372-5003 if we can help you.