Chattanooga Probate Administration Attorneys
Helping executors manage estates whether there is a will or not
Assessing ownership of property and authorship of a will allocating that property is one of the primary ways a probate attorney can help after the death of a family member or loved one. Indeed, the entire probate system exists to make sure that wills are fairly and accurately written and followed. While some wills and assets are reasonably straightforward to determine authenticity and comprehensive in their listings of property both small and large, others have complicating factors that require the skills of an experienced Chattanooga probate attorney. Even more complex are the unfortunate cases where someone has passed away unexpectedly or left incomplete or inadequate direction as to the disposition of their property.
Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law was founded in Chattanooga more than seven decades ago, and since that time, we have striven to merit the faith and loyalty of our clients through professionalism and honesty. We offer our clients the security of working directly with their lawyers, not a staff member or paralegal. We guide personal representatives (executors and administrators) through the probate and intestate process. We’ll help ensure the right people receive their correct share and that the bills of the estate are paid. As part of the Tennessee community, we know local and federal law, and we value our lifelong relationships with our clients.
How can we help?
- What is “intestate?”
- What are the benefits of drafting a will?
- Who are the beneficiaries of intestate succession?
- Who can be appointed the administrator of the estate?
- What are the duties of the administrator of an intestate estate?
- Do the intestate laws of Tennessee affect non-probate assets?
- Do you have a probate lawyer near me?
What is “intestate?”
The word “intestate” describes someone who has died without having made a will. There are many reasons why someone may die without a will. People who don’t have minor children or don’t have significant assets often don’t have a will. Some people don’t prepare a will because they’re afraid they’ll die sooner if they prepare a will. Some people die unexpectedly, such as in a car accident, without having prepared a will. Even many seniors with homes and bank accounts don’t have a will because they just never got around to making one.
When a resident of Chattanooga dies without a will, the assets of that resident are distributed in accordance with the intestate laws of Tennessee after the debts and charges of the estate are paid.
How does it affect an estate?
In these cases, it can be extremely challenging for family members to wait patiently while a probate administrator determines what should be done with sentimental items, personal property, stocks, bonds, real estate, and active businesses. For some special types of property, even a short wait can be problematic. Some perishable property, which can lose their usefulness or value if unattended (such as valuable animals or fine wines), are either stored or sold at the personal representative’s discretion. Wasting assets, or items that will lose value over time like non-collectible vehicles, are often sold promptly. If a family member or relevant party feels that, had their loved one not died intestate, any asset, including a wasting asset or perishable property, would have been left to them, then no action can be taken until a probate lawyer, the probate administrator, the probate executor and the personal representative all reach an agreement, which can be a lengthy process.
It is clear that the process of untangling the complexities of property, intentions and family relations can be challenging. However, with the help of a knowledgeable attorney working for your rights, a mutually acceptable agreement that honors the wishes of your loved one is often possible, even without an extant will. In cases where ownership is contested, or where a business is left as part of the estate, probate litigation may be necessary. We have the skills and resources to assist with that, too.
What are the benefits of drafting a will?
A will is useful in several key ways:
- A will determines which people receive which assets of the decedent. These assets often include homes, bank accounts, businesses, cars, jewelry, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and treasured possessions such as jewelry. A will can designate that certain people get specific assets (called a specific bequest).
- A will can designate that some non-family members receive a portion of the decedent’s estate. A common example is when a senior leaves part of his/her estate to a church, a school, or another community organization.
- A will designates who will manage the estate. The person designated in the will is called an executor. The executor then collects the assets of the decedent, pays any bills or debts that are due, distributes the estate, and performs other duties.
- A will designates who the guardian of any minor children will be in the event both parents are deceased.
If a will exists but can’t be found, there may be alternative ways to validate the will. Otherwise, the estate assets will be distributed in accordance with Tennessee’s probate laws.
Who are the beneficiaries of intestate succession?
According to Tennessee’s intestate laws, the shares of the decedent’s estate are distributed as follows:
- The surviving spouse. The surviving spouse receives the entire intestate estate if there are no surviving issue. Issue generally means the children of the decedent. The surviving spouse receives either one-third (1/3) of the entire estate or a child’s share of the entire estate – whichever is larger.
If there is no surviving spouse, the intestate estate passes as follows:
- The issue of the decedent. If these issue all have the same degree of kinship (such as all being children of the decedent), the issue all receive equal shares. If the issue is of “unequal degree, then those of more remote degree take by representation.” For example, if the decedent had two children - and one of the children was deceased but had three children of his own - then the surviving child receives one-half of the intestate estate and the three grandchildren (the children of the other child) split the other half. This means, the three grandchildren each receive one-sixth (1/6) of the estate – one third of their parent’s one-half share.
- There are no issue and no spouse. The decedent’s parent or parents receive equal shares of the intestate estate.
- There is no surviving spouse, issue, or parent. The siblings and issue of each deceased brother and sister receive their shares “by representation.”
- There is no surviving spouse, issue, parent, or sibling. “The issue of brothers and sisters take by representation.”
In some scenarios, one or more grandparents may receive part of the decedent’s estate.
There are additional rules that are skilled Chattanooga probate lawyers can explain regarding the rights of adopted children and children born out of wedlock. Generally, an adopted child and a child born out of wedlock may be entitled to an intestate share of the intestate estate depending on various factors set forth in Tennessee law.
Tennessee law does require that all child support payments be current before parents can receive their share of an estate through intestate succession, a will, or a trust.
Who can be appointed the administrator of the estate?
Generally, the spouse of the decedent or other relatives can request approval to be appointed the administrator of a Tennessee decedent’s estate. If more than one relative requests approval, our lawyers help obtain approval for the relative we represent. In some cases, a creditor can be appointed as an administrator.
What are the duties of the administrator of an intestate estate?
- Advertising the decedent’s death in local newspapers.
- Notifying the known heirs of their appointment.
- Identifying, collecting, valuing, and selling assets.
- Paying the debts of the decedent, filing tax returns, and paying the appropriate probate costs.
- Accounting for all the assets.
- Distributing the assets to the correct beneficiaries.
Our Chattanooga probate lawyers advise administrators about their duties. We help the administrator resolve any disputes or issues that may arise through negotiation where possible and litigation if necessary. We also serve as administrators for estates.
Do the intestate laws of Tennessee affect non-probate assets?
Some property of the decedent may pass directly to a named beneficiary instead of passing through probate (through a will or the intestate laws). Common examples include marital property titled in the names of both spouses, jointly held property with a named beneficiary, payable on death accounts, trust assets, and other items.
Our Chattanooga probate administration lawyers will help you identify the property that passes directly to a named beneficiary.
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, Chattanooga, TN. We also make alternate arrangements such as video conferences when needed.
We’re ready to answer all your questions and help ensure your loved one’s estate is properly handled (whether there is a will) so families can mourn and live their best lives possible after a loved one dies.
Contact a helpful, trustworthy probate administration attorney today
The process of untangling the complexities of property, intentions, and family relations can be challenging. With the help of a knowledgeable probate attorney working for your rights, a mutually acceptable agreement that honors the wishes of your loved one is often possible, with or without a will. Our probate lawyers help ensure the decedent’s estate is handled properly. At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, we leverage our years of knowledge and experience to benefit our clients and their families during some of the most difficult times in their lives.
If you or a family member have questions about or issues navigating the probate system, speak with an experienced probate lawyer by phone or complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. We offer legal services to clients in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and all surrounding counties.