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Can You Avoid Probate in TN?

You have probably heard some horror stories about the probate process. Probate is the court-supervised process of settling a deceased person’s estate and distributing property to heirs. Probate gets a lot of bad press with complaints about the time and money it can take to complete. In some cases, the process can take many months or even years.

During this time, the beneficiaries of the estate may see nothing. As you can imagine, this can be stressful. It would be nice if your heirs didn’t have to go through all that drama.

If you want to avoid probate, or keep the probate issues to a minimum, there are some things you can do.

Get a Living Trust

A living trust can help your heirs avoid (or minimize) the probate process when you die. In Tennessee, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, and any other asset you own. You can amend the trust at any time, adding or removing assets to the trust or changing beneficiaries.

You will need to create a trust document naming someone to take over as trustee after your death. You must then transfer ownership of your property to the trust. The property will be controlled by the terms of the trust. At your death, your successor trustee will be able to transfer the assets in the trust to the beneficiaries without the need for probate.

Joint Ownership

If you own property jointly with someone else, and if this ownership includes the “right of survivorship,” then the surviving owner automatically owns the property when the other owner dies. No probate will be necessary to transfer the property.

If you are married to the joint owner, then this type of joint tenancy is called “tenancy by the entirety”. Property owned as tenancy by the entirety automatically passes to the surviving spouse when the other spouse dies.

Payable-on-Death Designations for Bank Accounts

In Tennessee, you can add a “payable-on-death” designation to financial accounts such as savings accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs). You still control all the money in the account. Your beneficiary has no rights to the money until you die. At that point, the beneficiary can claim the money directly from the bank without the need for probate. But, you may not want to make all your bank accounts POD, because you may leave debts and expenses that need to be paid after your death, and a bank account could be the source for the funds needed to pay those debts and expenses. 

Transfer-on-Death Registration for Securities

If you have stocks and bonds, you can transfer them in the same way. Tennessee lets you register stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death (TOD) form. By doing so, the beneficiary you name will inherit your brokerage account automatically upon your death without probate.

Contact Judy A. Oxford, Attorney at Law

Probate can be time-consuming, and depending on the issues, could be a big hassle for surviving family members. You can avoid it with the right estate plan.

Contact Judy A. Oxford, Attorney at Law, to help you with your estate planning needs. I will try to help you avoid probate so that your family has less stress after your passing. Schedule a consultation with my office by calling (615) 791-8511 today.