When someone loses a loved one, the difficulties are not only emotional but many times financial, as the deceased’s assets must be properly handled and distributed to the rightful heirs of the estate. These concerns involve issues related to the loved one’s Will (if any), debts, and property. In addition to this, a surviving spouse may need the assets of his or her spouse to pay the bills or enable the family business to survive. All of these factors have been complicated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, courts across the country have slowed down civil, criminal, and probate cases out of concerns for health and safety.
Although the situation has changed since March, the effects of these restrictions have created a back log that has kept many probate cases waiting much longer than normal to resolve.
What is probate?
Probate involves the steps performed after the death of a loved one to carry out his her or wishes as recorded in the deceased’s Will. If the deceased did not leave a Will, the family members must follow the applicable intestacy rules. These rules govern the acquiring of information about the deceased’s estate, including their money, property, and debts.
If the deceased owned assets in his or her name, a grant of representation or “grant of probate” must be obtained. If no Will exists, then letters of administration must be obtained.
The process of probate already stretches out in many cases for months without the added delay caused by the pandemic. COVID-19 put an additional roadblock in the steps involved to complete probate cases.
Closures and restrictions due to COVID-19
Throughout Tennessee, because of social distancing requirements, courthouses have been closed or restricted from use by the public. This has prevented timely access to the Register of Wills Office, for example, in a number of counties. The closures and restrictions have prevented the timely filing of paperwork enabling executors of Wills to access and distribute the property based on the deceased’s Will and also pay the deceased’s outstanding bills and debts.
Fortunately, some of the previous restrictions that have limited the number of probate cases handled are starting to be lifted. Hopefully, the trend can continue and the backlog of probate cases in the state can start to alleviate.
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, we are committed to help our clients with any and all probate concerns they may have. Our team is here to solve your probate and other issues related to your deceased loved one’s estate and its proper distribution to heirs under the law. If you have any questions related to probate in ND or need help producing a Will, get in touch with an experienced probate attorney from our team for a free consultation at 423.756.7923 or send us a message through our contact form. We offer our services to Chattanooga TN, Cleveland TN, and the surrounding region.