Tennesseans are fortunate in that our state makes it very easy to administer modestly sized estates. The small estate procedure is available in lieu of a full probate whenever assets do not exceed $50,000.
Small estates are useful if there are bank accounts, life insurance policies, safe deposit boxes, certificates of deposit, or other assets that were held solely in the name of the deceased, without a beneficiary designation. To access such accounts, financial institutions require a court document showing the heir as having authority to access those accounts.
That’s where the small estate affidavit comes in. It can be acquired after the account holder has been deceased for at least 45 days, and is available regardless of whether that person had a will. Unlike a regular probate estate, a small estate is handled in one day, when the court signs the small estate affidavit. This means that time and expense are greatly reduced.
A small estate does not need to be handled by the nearest kin; it can be done by any of the relatives of the deceased. A list of property, debts, and the heirs of the deceased are required by the courts. Depending on the size of the estate, bond may also be required to obtain a small estate affidavit. Due to the expedited process of small estates, fees and costs are greatly reduced.
When going to court, it is almost always advisable to obtain counsel. If you are not sure whether or not you need to open an estate or obtain a small estate affidavit, contact the attorneys at The Pickler Law Firm for a complimentary consultation.