How Long Does It Take to Administer an Estate in Tennessee?

As an estate planning and probate attorney, I am routinely asked how long it takes to administer a probate estate in Tennessee. As the old lawyer joke goes, no matter what question is asked any seasoned attorney will tell you: It depends…

It depends on the court’s calendar and docket availability. In Tennessee a hearing with the probate court is required to formally open a decedent’s estate with the probate court. Some probate courts, such as those in Davidson and Williamson counties, hold regular weekly hearings. Scheduling a hearing time on their dockets may take a few days or weeks. Other probate courts in Tennessee meet less regularly so getting scheduled on their dockets – especially if their dockets are already fully booked with other matters – can take several weeks, and in rare situations, one or more months.

It depends on whether the beneficiaries are cooperative. If all beneficiaries are in agreement as to how the assets of the estate are to be distributed this generally speeds up the administration process. Court intervention – which can last months and even years – is more probable when beneficiaries disagree as to how assets are to be administered and ultimately distributed. Furthermore, adult beneficiaries who agree on the administration and distribution assets can waive with the court the formal requirements of an inventory and accountings.

It depends on whether there are creditors of decedent’s estate. In Tennessee after a decedent’s estate is opened with the probate court, the Notice to Creditors will be published in a local newspaper. This limits the time in which creditors may file claims against the estate. The deadline for filing of creditor claims in Tennessee is four months from the publication of the Notice to Creditors. However, in some situations that deadline can be extended up to one year from a decedent’s date of death. When a creditor claim is filed with the probate court it is the executor’s responsibility to examine the claim carefully and contest the claim in court if the claim is not valid or the amount of the claim is incorrect.

It depends on whether taxes are owed. The executor is required to file tax returns on behalf of the decedent and the decedent’s estate, and to pay any taxes due. Taxes a Tennessee resident decedent may be subject to include individual federal income tax, Tennessee Hall income tax, fiduciary income tax, Tennessee inheritance tax, and federal estate tax.

It depends on whether real estate or other illiquid assets are to be sold. As a general rule of thumb, liquid estates comprised mostly of cash, stocks, bonds, life insurance and residential real property tend to be administered more quickly than estates holding illiquid assets such as commercial real property and closely-held business interests.

It depends on the diligence of the executor in completing the administration process. Serving as executor can be a time-consuming process that involves the performance of many duties and tasks. Some executors are more apt to take on multiple tasks at any given time in order to ensure a quick administration. Other executors, however, are more comfortable moving through the administration at a more leisurely pace. It is important to remember that the loss of loved one is an emotional time for everyone involved including an individual executor. Impatient beneficiaries should be sensitive to this and mindful that the responsibilities and pressures of serving as an executor can be tremendous and initially overwhelming until the executor gets his or her bearings and has adequate time to grieve.

An estate administration is a process. As you can see the time for completing the process varies depending on the circumstances. We cannot always predict in advance how long it will take to administer an estate. However, we can tell you that estate administrations in Tennessee take at least four months and regularly can take up to a year or longer to complete.

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