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Attorneys Skilled in Wills and Probate Matters in Johnson City, TN

Trusted counsel explains Tennessee probate law

Preparing a will or administering the estate of a loved one requires sound legal advice. Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, PC has served the Tri-Cities region since 1909. Our current attorneys have more than 75 years of combined experience and thoroughly understand the intricacies of Tennessee wills and probate law.

What do I need to know when writing a will?

The simple act of preparing a will can greatly reduce the burden on your loved ones after you are gone. It helps ensure that your wishes are followed after your death. If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed to your heirs under Tennessee’s inheritance laws.

Wills vary in complexity and form, but they generally name an executor (person tasked with settling the estate), appoint guardians for children and leave property to designated beneficiaries. Below is some basic information about preparing a will in Tennessee:

  • Wills must be in writing.
  • You must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind to execute a valid will.
  • You must sign your will in the presence of two “disinterested” witnesses. Disinterested means that the witnesses are not named as beneficiaries in the will. The witnesses must also sign the will.
  • If the will is also notarized, the witnesses do not need to testify as to the will’s validity. Instead, the will is considered “self-proving.”
  • Your will should name an executor who will be in charge of ensuring that the terms of your will are carried out after your death.
  • You can amend the terms of a will by executing a “codicil” or drafting a new will.

Although you are not required to consult an attorney when preparing a will, it is advisable. An invalid or poorly drafted will might not protect your interests and could even lead to more confusion for your loved ones after your death.

What is probate?

The term probate generally refers to the legal process of transferring property from a deceased person’s estate to the proper beneficiaries. If a loved one dies with property in their name alone, probate is required. Property that does not need to be “probated” upon your death includes:

  • Property owned as joint tenants
  • Jointly-held bank accounts
  • Payable-on-death accounts
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Pension benefits with a designated beneficiary

The court oversees the probate process, but the executor of the deceased’s estate performs most of the required actions. The executor’s duties include collecting assets, paying debts and distributing funds to beneficiaries.

For someone unfamiliar with the probate process, the job can be daunting. Our experienced wills and probate attorneys guide you through the process by:

  • Giving notice to beneficiaries and heirs
  • Creating an estate account and marshaling the assets
  • Verifying and settling debts
  • Preparing an inventory of estate property
  • Selling real property
  • Filing estate tax returns
  • Preparing an accounting of the estate

Establishing a guardianship or conservatorship

When loved ones are no longer capable of managing their affairs, there are certain legal steps you can take to ensure their well-being. A conservator may be appointed to make financial decisions when a person becomes so incapacitated or impaired that they can no longer do so. A conservator’s duties may involve managing assets, paying bills and making investment decisions.

Similarly, a guardian may be appointed to oversee an incapacitated person’s personal care, custody and control. The guardian is authorized to make decisions to meet these requirements, such as determining the loved one’s living arrangements and medical care.

A Tennessee court must authorize both forms of legal protection. The court will also supervise the activities of the conservator and guardian and require periodic updates. To determine if a conservatorship or guardianship meets your needs, consult with an experienced Tri-Cities probate lawyer. We thoroughly explain your options and walk you through the court process.

Contact our Tri-Cities wills and probate lawyers for valuable guidance

At Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, PC, our lawyers work with you to prepare a will that protects your assets and your loved ones. We can also assist with estate administration. Call us today at 423-797-6022 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.