There is a lot of confusion regarding this topic, not to mention many misconceptions about probate.
In its simplest form, probate is a court supervised process of settling the final affairs of person after death. This includes the paying of all valid debts, the paying of all taxes, that satisfying of all claims, and distributing what is left to the surviving family members. This occurs whether or not there is a Will or not (although, the process will differ between the two).
Probate is a public court proceeding where all of the assets and debts of a person are made public record that anyone can view at any time. It is also a process, if there are any disputes among your heirs, will get resolved in open court.
Probate involves a process that will last anywhere from four months to two years or longer to complete. It must take four months at a minimum in order to put all known creditors on notice of the proceeding and give the creditors a reasonable opportunity to file their claims against the estate.
If there are any taxes due, those taxes must be paid. If the person who died was on Medicaid, then Medicaid Liens must be resolved. This is where the assets are used to repay Medicaid for every penny that was paid out on the person’s behalf in the form of Medicaid benefits during their lifetime.
The costs of administration have to be paid. This includes the costs of the attorney, the court courts, the administration fees, the executor and fiduciary fees, and any other miscellaneous fees. It is not unheard of to have $30,000 or more in fees that must be paid out of the estate in the form of costs to settle a probate estate.
Once all creditors have been put on notice, have had an opportunity to file their claim, their claims have been resolved, all taxes and Medicaid liens have been paid, and all costs of administration have been paid (attorney fees, court costs, executor and fiduciary fees, etc.), then whatever is left is distributed to the family members.
However, at any time in the two-year period from when the estate was opened, it can be contested by an heir.
What is probate? It is a court process that families go through when a family member dies. As you can tell, it is typically not a positive process.
If you have experienced the death of a loved one, please contact your Nashville, Tennessee Probate Attorney, Dan Perry, by calling our office at (615) 472-2482 so that we can listen to you and assist your family through the legal process during this difficult time.