Tennessee's Probate Laws for an Executor

By Vicki A. Benge
Under Tennessee's laws, the executor legally represents the decedent.

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Being named an executor or personal representative of an estate carries specific duties in the state of Tennessee. The executor uses the estate's assets for administration expenses and fulfills the wishes of the decedent while abiding by state regulations. Typically, it takes six to 12 months to complete the probate process for Tennessee estates.

Named or Appointed

Estate executors are named in the will of the decedent or appointed by the probate court. When a person is named in the will to administer an estate, she takes the will to the decedent's county clerk's office for recording. If the deceased left no instructions, the court will appoint someone to act as administrator. Either way, under Tennessee law, when the court approves the executor, she assumes legal power to carry out the wishes of the decedent and settle the estate. The court posts a legal notice in the local newspaper to inform creditors of the probate and identity of the estate representative. The executor is then responsible for paying bills for the estate and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Estate Property

The executor is responsible for recording, assessing and protecting the estate's assets. Under Tennessee laws, co-owned property does not go through probate. Thus, the executor does not take responsibility for these types of assets. For example, ownership of a married couple's home when held jointly simply goes to the surviving spouse; likewise, with any other jointly owned real estate, bank accounts and tangible assets, ownership falls to the survivor or survivors. Property that must go through probate is inventoried, and the executor submits a list to the probate court within 60 days of appointment to the position.

Creditors, Taxes and Beneficiaries

To abide by Tennessee law, the executor contacts the estate's creditors and pays all outstanding legitimate claims. Tennessee probate laws allow creditors from four to 12 months to file claims against the estate. The executor also files any necessary tax forms for the decedent and notifies beneficiaries of the forthcoming inheritance.

Notifying TennCare

If the decedent was older than 55 years of age at the time of death, the executor must notify TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid program. Within 60 days of appointment, the law requires the executor to file a request for release from the Bureau of TennCare. The executor submits this form, provided by the agency, along with an official copy of the death certificate. Once approved by TennCare, this release will be filed with the probate court as part the estate's paperwork.

Finishing Up

After creditors are paid and TennCare releases the estate from any further obligation, the executor reassesses remaining assets. The remainder is distributed to entitled beneficiaries and final paperwork is filed with the probate court.

About the Author

Vicki A Benge began writing professionally in 1984 as a newspaper reporter. A small-business owner since 1999, Benge has worked as a licensed insurance agent and has more than 20 years experience in income tax preparation for businesses and individuals. Her business and finance articles can be found on the websites of "The Arizona Republic," "Houston Chronicle," The Motley Fool, "San Francisco Chronicle," and Zacks, among others.

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