Trusted Chattanooga Probate Lawyers
Helping families throughout Tennessee fulfill their loved one’s wishes
After a loved one dies or becomes permanently incapacitated, the last thing anyone wants to do is to attempt to sort through debts, property, and assets. The probate system provides a structure for this process, allowing families and friends to focus on their emotional health, while a Chattanooga probate lawyer sorts through any wills, assets or debts remaining. Seasoned probate lawyers offer a mix of compassion, impartiality, and business acumen to help carry out the wishes of the decedent in the fairest way possible and according to the decedent’s legal documents.
Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law is among the oldest and most respected law firms in Chattanooga. For over seven decades, we have earned the trust and loyalty of our clients through hard work, honesty, and diligence. We have experience working with the courts and we value our clients. We’re skilled at handling contests about the validity of a will, the appointment of a personal representative, and the administration of the estate. We routinely work with executors and administrators to collect the asset assets, pay those who have valid claims, and distribute the assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs.
What does probate mean?
Probate is the process that validates the will of the testator and formally appoints the executor as the person/entity that will manage the estate.
What does a Chattanooga probate lawyer do?
We have all seen the soap opera plots revolving around hidden wills, fake wills, disputes, and conflicts. Reality is rarely quite so dramatic, but it is helpful to have an impartial third party, such as an estate or probate executor, on hand to assist. Estate attorneys generally assist with drafting wills and trusts, while probate attorneys primarily function after someone has passed away; sometimes they are one and the same, helping before and after a death.
The role of a probate attorney is multifarious. A well-crafted will should include not only property allocation but also name an executor, who then brings the will to the county courthouse. In cases where a will is not present, the court will appoint an Administrator for the estate. In either case, the probate process properly begins when the executor notifies any heirs and beneficiaries of the will or estate.
What are the stages of the probate administration process?
Our Chattanooga probate lawyers help executors appointed in a will and family members who seek approval to administrator a loved one’s estate handle the following probate administration tasks:
- The probate of the will – validating the will. If the decedent did not have a will, we explain how Tennessee’s intestate laws determine which people (such as spouses, children, and parents) are entitled to which assets.
- The appointment of a personal representative – either the person named in the will (the executor) or a person who seeks approval from the probate court (the administrator).
- Notification to all interested parties. We’ll explain who needs to be notified that the loved one died, when and how the publication of the death and decedent should be made, and the cost of the notice.
- Collection of the probate assets. We help identify the assets of the estate including real property, bank accounts, personal property, stocks, retirement accounts, life insurance, and other assets. We also help value and sell estate assets.
- Determination of the validity of any claims and the priority bills that need to be paid. We help the personal representative determine which creditors have valid claims, whether any claims can be settled, what taxes are due, what court costs should be paid, and any other financial duties.
- Preparation of an inventory and of an accounting. The inventory is the initial list of the assets and their worth. The accounting is a more formal review that explains how every dollar or item of value came into the estate and how every dollar or every item of value was paid out.
- Distribution of the probate assets. We arrange to transfer any real property, tangible property, and the estate account assets to the rightful beneficiaries and heirs.
If there is no will, probate is the process for approving a request, normally of a family member, to be appointed the administrator of the estate. Probate is where the administration of the estate is handled so that there is a record of how the estate assets were collected and distributed and which debts and expenses were paid.
We also explain how any non-probate assets such as trusts and property that is properly titled in the name of beneficiaries or survivors are handled. Some types of property are not required to go through probate, such as property held in trust, jointly held property with a right of survivorship, insurance death benefits, and other accounts that have a named beneficiary.
Finally, a probate judge is the judge who resolves any disputes such as when another will is presented for validation or the original will can’t be found, there are questions about the appointment of an executor or administrator, and all other probate questions.
Our Chattanooga probate lawyers will answer all your questions and guide you through the probate process.
What types of conflicts and issues can arise during the probate process?
Often, a family member, another person, or another claimant may think that the decedent’s will didn’t leave them their rightful share. Some beneficiaries may believe that the personal representative (the executor or administrator) isn’t handling the estate quickly enough, obtaining the correct value for the assets, or otherwise not acting as the beneficiary/heir would like.
Our Chattanooga probate lawyers handle all these various probate claims including:
- Challenges to the validity of the will based on lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud, the existence of a later will, and other grounds.
- Challenges to the appointment of the personal representative or the way the personal representative is handling the estate.
- Concerns that the executor is not qualified or ready to be an executor, is not impartial, or who refuses the job.
- Difficulties in locating various assets or agreeing on their values.
- Complaints the executor is not competent or not acting quickly enough.
In each of these scenarios, it is the role of your Chattanooga probate litigation attorney to sort through the claims and make sure that the rightful person’s claim is honored.
Who do you represent?
We normally represent the people assigned to handle the estate – the executor or the administrator of the estate. We may also represent someone who is challenging the validity of the will or the handling of the estate. We handle all types of probate litigation issues.
Do you have a probate lawyer near me?
At Wagner & Wagner, we meet clients at our office in Chattanooga located at 701 Market Street, Suite 310. We do make alternate arrangements when necessary.
We understand how confusing handling the administration of an estate can be, especially when you just want to remember your loved one. Our probate lawyers help personal representatives administer the decedent’s estate and respond to any challenges or disputes that may arise.
Contact our experienced and knowledgeable Chattanooga probate attorneys today
Our Chattanooga probate lawyers know how devastating the death of any relative is. We work to make the administration process as quick as possible, while helping to ensure that the family members and others receive their rightful shares. We skillfully work to resolve conflicts through negotiation and, if necessary, litigation. At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our goal is to use our nearly 75 years of knowledge and experience to benefit our clients and their families.
Whether you’re an executor, and administrator, or have a rightful claim to some or all of a loved one’s estates, call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. We provide skilled probate and estate administration services to clients in Chattanooga, Cleveland, TN, and all surrounding Tennessee counties.