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How is a Small Estate Settled in Nashville Tennessee?

— February 10, 2023

Estate planning is important regardless of age, wealth, or life circumstances or related variables.

If the person’s estate is valued at no more than $50,000 at the time of their passing and does not include real estate, then the state of Tennessee offers a simplified, less time-consuming version of probate.  A Nashville estate planning lawyer can guide an executor on this method where they must send a declaration of facts to the court outlining the estate’s assets and debts, along with a death certificate and contact information of all beneficiaries. The court will rule whether it will allow the simplified probate within 45 days. If allowed, the assets can then transfer directly to the heirs. Tennessee procedures and rules have changed regarding estate administration.  Expediting the process may involve going to a financial institution with a copy of the death certificate, the will, relevant supporting paperwork, and the Tennessee statute.  Common issues that may allow probate to be bypassed include access to real estate, vehicles, safe deposit boxes, final wages, insurance policies and small bank accounts.

  • Real Estate:  Muniment of Title is a legal action used to legally transfer clear title of one type of property to a beneficiary.
  • Vehicles:  If a decedent individually owned one or more vehicles at their death, probate is not required to transfer the title if there are no known creditors and all heirs-at-law sign off on the transfer.  
  • Safe Deposit Boxes:  T.C.A. Section 45-2-905 permits a qualified personal representative of the decedent’s estate to access and remove contents from a safe deposit box held in a banking institution.  
  • Final Wages Up to $10k:  T.C.A. Section 30-2-103 permits an employee to designate a beneficiary to receive payment for any wages or salary due at the time of the employee’s death.  If a beneficiary has not been designated, a sum of up to $10K may be paid directly to the surviving spouse of the decedent or, if none, then to the child(ren) of the decedent as tenants in common.
  • Small Bank Accounts Up to $15k:  T.C.A. Section 45-2-708 and T.C.A. Section 45-3-514 permit banks and savings and loan associations the discretion to pay out accounts in the name of the decedent for total sums that do not exceed $15,000.  
  • Life Insurance Up to $15k – Proof of Death:  T.C.A. Section 56-7-206 allows proof of death for any life insurance policy with a value of $15,000 or less to be more easily furnished by submitting a photocopy of the death certificate.  The death certificate copy must be accompanied by a sworn statement from the doctor who signed the certificate or the funeral director who conducted burial services that the certificate is authentic.  

Importance of estate planning

Couple doing estate planning; image by Ketut Subiyanto, via
Couple doing estate planning; image by Ketut Subiyanto, via

Estate planning is important regardless of age, wealth, or life circumstances or related variables. A Tennessee estate planning lawyer will review documents when estate planning is initiated to ascertain any loopholes that individuals would be able to contest when a will goes to probate. The resolution of probated estates can be time-consuming and dragged out, depending upon the nature of the assets left to distribute requiring the service of an estate planning lawyer. 

Tax concerns

A tax lawyer will be able to apprise beneficiaries of the inheritance tax liabilities associated with any type of asset they receive during estate settlements. Experienced lawyers who understand Tennessee and federal laws regarding probate will guide interested parties accordingly.  


  1. Tennessee Code and Revenue Rules (

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