In spite of the incredible advances of science in prolonging life, death is still the final act in each of our lives. Therefore, your family will eventually need to either probate your estate or administer your trust. 

When a loved one dies and his/her estate plan consisted only of a will – or no estate plan at all – then that estate often goes through a court-supervised process called Probate (or estate administration) where the individually-owned assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. The length of time needed to complete this process depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules of the probate court. While each estate administration is unique, most involve the following steps:

  • Filing a petition with the proper Probate Court to appoint an Executor, if there was a will, or an Administrator, if there was no Will

  • Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration are issued by the court

  • Notice to beneficiaries under the Will or to statutory heirs if no Will exists

  • Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by the Executor/Administrator

  • Sale of estate assets, if necessary

  • Paying estate debts to rightful creditors

  • Filing of Income, Estate, and other tax returns

  • Accounting of all financial transactions

  • Distributing assets to heirs

  • Filing a request to close the estate


Because probate can be time-consuming, costly, and public, many people want to avoid it and protect their family. And there are many legal strategies that will allow you to pass property to another person after death without going through probate, but not all of them will protect the family. Some of the types of strategies are

  • Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety

  • Beneficiary Designations

  • POD (payable on death) accounts

  • Irrevocable Trusts

  • Revocable Living Trusts


A properly drafted trust, along with an ongoing process to align, verify, and track assets, their changing value and ownership, and add new assets, will not only avoid probate, but will ensure your family is taken care of. When all the assets are aligned with the trust at the time of death, no court filing or intervention is required. Nevertheless, there are still steps necessary to administer the trust:

  • New trustees must be appointed and named on each account

  • If required, estate tax returns need to be filed in a timely manner (within 9 months) to avoid penalties and interest

  • A final verification of assets must be made to determine what was owned at death

  • A new asset alignment process is needed to ensure the assets are re-titled into the name of the beneficiaries or their trusts, depending on whether the distribution is outright or in trust to the beneficiaries

For more information, contact us

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Crossville, TN 38571 (855) 812-1856


1200 Mountain Creek Road, Suite 485

Chattanooga, TN 37405 (423) 648-9829


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