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  • Writer's pictureJohn C. Rexford

Understanding Probate of an Estate: 3 Things to Know

Estate Planning Chatanooga Tennessee

Navigating the loss of a loved one can be a very challenging time—emotionally and relationally. At times, we forget that this time can also be challenging financially. However, with careful planning, some of the challenges or questions can be reduced or eliminated. We are here to help. It is our hope that your emotional distress will be reduced if you have one less thing to worry about, if and when you need to utilize the courts for the estate of a loved one.

Importantly, having a general understanding of the legal proceedings after one passes, and even how to avoid probate, can help avoid costly expenses, delays in accessing assets, and feeling overwhelmed by the legal procedures of going through the probate court process.

John Rexford explains that probate court is utilized for assets left in the name of a deceased person. It is also the place where Wills are presented, approved and utilized. Mr. Rexford uses his knowledge of the legal and court system to steer you clearly through this challenge with the right paperwork, and support needed. Click here to get in contact with John Rexford.

What is a Probate?

Probate is the legal process that one’s family goes through to disperse assets to the appropriate

beneficiaries, allowing beneficiaries to take ownership of the assets. Beneficiaries are the

individuals identified to inherit the contents of the estate as outlined by state law, if there is no

Will, or in the deceased’s Will if they left one.

3 Things You Need to Know

First, the court will identify the contents of the will and determine if it is legally valid. Wills will be examined to make sure they are legitimate with the correct signatures and notarizations. These specifications may vary by state. Each court will identify which will is valid as the true and original will and will then open a file, called probate of the estate. Secondly, the court appoints a Personal Representative to notify heirs and creditors, pay bills, identify assets, protect assets, pay bills, and eventually transfer the assets from the name of the deceased to the name of the new owners. The process of probate can take a year, especially if there are creditors to satisfy. One completes various forms, pays a filing fee, may purchase a Bond, and then work with a Judge (or Chancellor) who determines how bills are paid and how assets are eventually distributed. If a beneficiary has not been identified for certain assets, including personal belongings, jewelry, and household items, it can create complications. In addition, debts that are outstanding, or money owed to the deceased, may be addressed in the probate process. Specific assets that have a designated beneficiary, or joint owners, may not need to go through the probate process and can be directed to the individual who is the inheritor of the property. For example, an individual’s life insurance policy, investment accounts, or even some bank accounts may fall in this classification as long as there is a living owner of these accounts. Third, the appointed Personal Representative of the estate must manage the contents of the

estate while it is in probate—such as paying for the upkeep of a home or business. Contents of the estate, including real estate, may be sold and liquidated in order to pay bills or be dispersed among the identified heirs. The court may oversee the process of selling these items and will need to approve these procedures, which can take significant time. The probate process can be avoided however, by creating a living trust, and assigning assets to it. A living trust allows for the legal “ownership” of your assets, so that no one has to rely on the court process to disperse assets after you die. In essence, you can avoid the process of probate entirely if you set up a living trust! The individual you name as the Successor Trustee of the trust is automatically authorized to oversee the distribution of trust assets, following the guidelines that you identify when you create the trust. A living trust can be integral in making sure your last wishes are carried out seamlessly, privately, quickly, and accurately.

Attorney John C. Rexford Chatanooga Tennessee

About John Rexford

Attorney John Rexford can help you navigate the needed steps in order to expedite the process of probate, saving you time and energy. He is able to walk through the process of navigating probate with integrity, clarity, and organization, making sure that all of your questions are answered and that you have a complete understanding and confidence that your wishes are being honored in the process. He uses clear and easy to understand communication, as well as an ethical, diligent approach to client care, ensuring that each client has a positive experience with the services. He is also able to help you avoid it. We would be happy to serve you!


Reach out to us today to learn more. We look forward to serving you soon!

423-645-2017 (Tennessee Office) // 508-234-9160 (Massachusetts Office)


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