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When a loved one passes away, you may need to contact a probate lawyer in Memphis, TN at Wiseman Bray, PLLC to help you settle their estate. An estate doesn’t always have to go through probate court first, so it’s important to know what a member of our legal team can do when the probate process is necessary. Losing a loved one is hard. It’s an emotional time. You have a lot on your plate with funeral arrangements and spending time with loved ones. The last thing you want is to worry about a legal process called probate. You deserve to focus your time on your family.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s assets and paying liabilities based on their wishes in the will. Probate is required for nearly every estate. During probate, the judge and lawyers will help guide the personal representative or executor of the estate. The personal representative will pay all of the debts and liabilities the decedent had and then distribute any remaining assets. For their services, the personal representative is paid a fee from the estate.

Who is Involved in Probate?

There are many different people involved in the probate process. These include:

  • You or someone else serving as the personal representative
  • The Clerk of Court
  • A judge
  • Your probate attorney
  • The IRS

That last one may cause some anxiety, but part of probating an estate is paying final income taxes. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. By using a Tennessee Probate Lawyer in Memphis to guide you through the probate process, you can rest assured your loved one’s estate will follow the guidelines set forth.

When is Probate Necessary?

Not all items go through probate, so it’s important to know what does have to go through probate and what doesn’t. Anything the deceased owned — in his or her name alone — may have to go through probate. We can help you determine what is part of the probate estate and what won’t go through probate. Some of assets that don’t go through probate include:

  • Joint property: This includes bank accounts, vehicles or properties that are owned by more than just the deceased. The survivor automatically owns the property upon the joint account holder’s death.
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts: A payable-on-death bank account automatically goes to the beneficiary.
  • Life insurance proceeds: If the life insurance policy specifies a beneficiary, the policy pays that person and doesn’t go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts: If the retirement account specifies a beneficiary, the funds go to that person without the need for probate.
  • Living trust assets: Assets may have a name of a trustee for a living trust specified, and in this case, these assets do not have to go through probate court.

What May Be Subjected to Probate?

Anything a person owned when he or she passed away, may be subject to the probate. Probate is a court-supervised process that entails proving the validity of a will and distributing assets within the decedent’s estate. Assets may be things like property, bank accounts, life insurance policy, art collections, vehicles, jewelry, and more. If you need help during the probate process after your loved one passed away, we recommend meeting with Memphis, TN Probate Lawyer at Wiseman Bray as soon as possible.

There are often four types of assets that may be subject to probate, including the following:

#1 Individual Assets
As a member of our legal team may inform you, individual assets entail all the property that are listed with the decedent’s name without any co-owners. Examples of individual assets can include investment accounts, bank accounts, bonds, stocks, cars, airplanes, boats, real estate, artwork, memorabilia, and business interests.

#2 Tenants-In-Common Property
Tenants-in-common assets can include property that is titled in the decedent’s name along with one or more individuals. Every owner has a percentage of interest for the property (such as 50/50, 25/75, 80/20, etc). Tenant-in-common titles are often named this way for property that is divided among unmarried owners.

#3 Beneficiary Assets (with Predeceased or No Beneficiary Descriptions)
Assets with payable-on-death or beneficiary designations may have to go through probate, if the beneficiary passed prior to the decedent. The assets may include things like medical savings accounts, health savings, life insurance, retirement accounts, 401K, IRAs and annuities. If the named beneficiaries predeceased the decedent, the asset usually diverts back to the estate and becomes part of probate. The same thing may happen if the decedent listed the estate as the beneficiary, or did not name any beneficiaries at all.

#4 Assets Outside of the Trust
A person may establish a living trust and move assets into it for protection. However, this doesn’t absolutely mean that none of his or her property will go through probate after death. Living trusts can help avoid probate of the property included, but so much time may go by that the person acquired more assets and failed to pass these into the trust as well before passing away. A Probate Lawyer in TN at Wiseman Bray may emphasize the importance of updating your trust every few years or as life changes happen, so no assets end up accidentally being left out.  

If an estate is small, you may be able to go through a simplified probate process in Tennessee. This applies for estate totals equal to or less than $25,000 without adding real estate into the total.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Each estate is unique. While there are guidelines that state probate should not take more than one year, that isn’t always the case. Some estates are extremely complex and require many years to probate and close. Other estates take a few months. There are certain things that must happen during probate and there are waiting periods. For instance, when you file a notice to creditors to alert any creditors that they need to file a claim against the estate to be paid, you have to wait a certain number of days for those creditors to file claims. This means that even in simple estates, you’re looking at a minimum of about six months.

At Wiseman Bray, we understand just how difficult it can be to settle your loved one’s final affairs. If your family member’s estate has to go through a probate process, things might get a little overwhelming and confusing. That’s why we encourage you to speak with a TN Probate Lawyer in Memphis. We work hard for our clients and try to make the probate process as stress-free as possible for them.

Here are some of the benefits of hiring a probate lawyer:

  • Save Time: Taking a family member’s estate through the probate process can be a time-consuming matter. With so many other things on your plate, you shouldn’t have to worry about handling the entire probate process on your own. We have the experience to finish the probate process as quickly as possible. With your lawyer doing all the legwork, you can reduce a lot of stress and have more time to take care of your family.

  • Complete Paperwork: The probate process involves a lot of paperwork. Some of this paperwork can be confusing and difficult to understand for the average person. Even a small error can slow down the entire process. We can remain by your side and help out with the paperwork to ensure you understand everything you are filling out.
  • Cost Savings: While hiring a Probate Lawyer from Tennessee does cost money, it could potentially save you more money in the long run. An experienced probate lawyer can prepare and process documents efficiently and reduce time in court, which may help you save money. A probate lawyer could also provide counsel that helps to minimize estate taxes.

  • Alleviate Tension: Estate administration can sometimes create family tension. For example, if one family member doesn’t receive the inheritance he or she deserves, that person might become angry and take it out on other family members. We can help alleviate some of the tension between family members and help them understand the process better.

  • Legal Knowledge: When you are dealing with something as complex as estate administration, it helps to have an experienced lawyer by your side. We have likely handled similar cases to yours in the past and should be prepared to handle any unique challenges that may come your way. Our attorneys at Wiseman Bray administer estates constantly and we are prepared to lead our clients in the right direction.

  • Support: Handling an estate administration after the death of a family member can be quite daunting. Our legal team can provide endless support through the entire process and be there to offer guidance. If you ever have a question or concern about something, you can just call your lawyer and talk to him or her about whatever is troubling you.

What Exactly Does a Probate Lawyer Help With?

A probate lawyer may help the Personal Representative of the estate go through the probate process. Any Memphis, Tennessee Probate Lawyer may tell you that the probate laws and steps vary from state to state, which is why you may find it helpful to work with a professional.

Your lawyer may also inform you that probate can vary from case to case depending on the existence of a valid will. We can advise you of the laws in your state and help you determine what to expect in the probate process.

A member of our legal team may address several items, including:

  • Locating probate and nonprobate assets
  • Collecting life insurance money
  • Obtaining appraisals of the deceased’s property
  • Preparing and filing the documents the probate court needs
  • Rolling over and making elections for retirement plans
  • Taking care of the estate checking account
  • Advising on any payments of outstanding debts and final bills
  • Determining any inheritance or estate taxes
  • Dealing with any income tax issues
  • Helping with selling estate property
  • Requesting court permission as necessary
  • Retitling the real estate
  • Settling disputes between beneficiaries and personal representatives
  • Distributing remaining assets after the final estate has been settled


Once Probate Has Concluded

Once probate is complete, beneficiaries are awarded their portion of the estate as written in the decedent’s will. If at any point during the probate process a beneficiary or family member feels their loved one’s legacy is not being handled correctly, may be able to take action to set things straight.

This time may also accompany a heavy period of grief, so a Probate Lawyer in Memphis, TN at Wiseman Bray understands that you may need some legal insight and compassionate support. Do not hesitate to reach out to us to book your free consultation. Probate may take months or even as long as a year before closing, so we suggest receiving legal counsel periodically along the way.

Contact Wiseman Bray, PLLC Today

Our team has the keen eye you need to make sure your loved one’s inheritance goes to the right people. Don’t leave it to yourself to determine whether your loved one’s estate needs probate. That could cause even more delay and be more costly than simply hiring the right probate attorney from the start.

As the personal representative or executor of the estate, you don’t pay us anything out of your own pocket. The estate pays our fees and it pays yours, too. For your services in this process, you will receive payment once the estate is closed, which should happen within one year.

The probate process can be complicated, and it’s the last thing you want to deal with after losing a loved one. Contact a TN Probate Lawyer in Memphis at Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003 today.