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Using your loved one's estate plan during probate

The settling of a person's final affairs after his or her passing typically involves the probate process. This legal process addresses numerous aspects of the person's life, including finances, debts, property distribution and much more. If you find yourself in charge of handling this process, you certainly want to know whether your loved one created a plan to guide you.

In a best-case scenario, your loved one will have informed you of his or her intention to name you as the executor of the estate, and you will have at least some idea of what information the person included in his or her plan.

What tools did your loved one use?

The probate process can go much more smoothly if you have a comprehensive estate plan to work from. If your loved one created such a plan, he or she may have utilized the following tools:

  • A will, which may have named you as the executor of the estate, possibly named a guardian for any minor children and detailed certain property distribution wishes
  • Jointly owned property with the right to survivorship, which means that the surviving owner can directly inherit the jointly held property without it having to go through probate
  • A trust can help keep certain assets out of the probate process and protect them from creditors or other claims
  • Beneficiary designations can be used on payable-on-death accounts or transfer-on-death accounts in order for the account assets to pass directly to the named beneficiary if up to date and correct

Of course, your loved one many have utilized other planning tools like a living will or power of attorney, but because the executor handles affairs after the person's passing, the information in those documents may not help you through the probate process.

What do you need to know?

As the executor of the estate, you need information about your loved one's personal life, financial affairs and other details. It can certainly be difficult to obtain all the needed information before a person's passing, which is why having estate planning documents to help you through probate is a benefit.

Additionally, you do not have to try to work through the probate process on your own. You can enlist the help of a Tennessee attorney experienced in handling such matters who could assist you throughout the process.

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