I was working with a family from Nashville earlier this year regarding the probate court process. This family, a brother and sister, lost their mother suddenly. Although, it was expected as she was in declining health in recent years. Further, they told me that their father passed away about seven years ago. Their mother died with a will and had a lot of questions. Her mother owned a home, a modest amount of personal property, two bank accounts with a total of $125,000, an IRA with $200,000, an annuity, and several CDs.
This family’s main question was how long it was going to take to settle their mother’s estate through the probate court process.
I explained that not all of their mother’s assets were going to be going through probate. I explained that there are probate assets and non-probate assets. I explained that non-probate assets are assets that typically have a beneficiary named such as IRAs, annuities, and life insurance. I discussed with them that their mother’s IRA and annuity will be transferred immediately. All they needed to do would be to present the financial institution with a certified copy of the death certificate and those assets would be transferred immediately, those assets would not have to go through the probate court process.
However, I explained that the remainder of their mother’s assets would have to go through the probate court process. I discussed with them that since their mother did not complete transfer-on-death (TOD) designations at the bank, the bank accounts were going to be frozen and would need to go through probate. Second, I explained that their mother’s home and all of her personal property would need to be inventoried and a value assessed to it. I further explained that these assets would need to pass through the probate court first before being transferred. Finally, I explained that due to the CDs not being titled appropriately, the CDs at the bank would need to go through the probate court process.
I discussed with this family that we would get to work and begin the probate court process. I explained that we would be as expeditious as possible but it was likely to take several months, possibly over a year, before their mother’s probate estate was going to be settled.
As you can imagine, the brother and sister were not happy that they were going to have to endure this process before gaining access to the property in their late mother’s estate. For this reason, a majority of the families that I work with prefer to put a plan in place so that the entire probate court process is avoided and all the costs and delays of the process are avoided for the family.
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