How Long Can You Keep an Estate Open After Death in Tennessee?

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With the deadlines for each step of probate varying from state to state, it can be difficult to figure out how long you have to complete the process. That’s why we’ve outlined Tennessee’s laws on how long an estate can stay open after a person’s death.

There is no deadline for keeping an estate open in Tennessee. There are, however, specific rules on how long the executor has to notify the individuals who are beneficiaries and the time limit during which a will can be contested.

How Long Can an Estate Stay Open After Death?

In Tennessee, when it comes to closing an estate or finishing the probate process, there isn’t a hard deadline. An estate can stay open indefinitely if the executor or personal representative can show that progress is being made. 

However, there are certain deadlines for various steps of probate, including:

  • Notifying the individuals who are beneficiaries or heirs
  • Notifying known creditors of a death
  • Creditors claiming debts
  • Filing and paying taxes

Certain deadlines for these actions vary from state to state, so we’ve outlined what Tennessee’s laws are on how long you can keep an estate open after death.

Learn about each step of the probate process.

Filing a Will

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Tennessee doesn’t have a time limit on submitting a will at the probate clerk’s office. However, if the beneficiaries feel that there has been no progress, they have legal options to move the process forward.

Beneficiaries can:

  • Make a formal demand for action
  • Petition the court to force the executor into action
  • Ask for a report of actions taken by the executor
  • Petition the court to remove and replace the executor

Notifying Beneficiaries of the Will

Within 60 days of being appointed, the personal representative or executor should inform the individuals who are beneficiaries or heirs that they stand to inherit assets under the terms of the will or state intestate laws.

Executors are required to share certain information with beneficiaries. This information includes:

  • Inventory of estate assets
    • This isn’t required if the will states otherwise or all the beneficiaries agree that it is not necessary.
  • Accounting of expenses paid for the estate and monies collected

If the executor isn’t sharing information with a beneficiary, it is helpful to have a probate attorney on your side. They can inform you of your rights and help you take legal action. Probate attorneys can assist you in petitioning the court to have the executor removed if the situation calls for it.

Connect with a probate attorney who can help you petition the court.

Notifying Creditors of a Death

Within 30 days of an executor being appointed, the probate clerk must notify creditors of the person’s death. This is usually done through a notice in the newspaper. If the executor is aware of any creditors, they must send a copy of the notice to them.

Creditors Claiming Debts

Creditors have one year from the date that the deceased died to collect any outstanding debts. This limitation allows heirs and beneficiaries to receive their inheritance without having to contest creditor claims down the road.

Filing & Payment of Taxes

It is the executor’s responsibility to file the final federal income tax returns for the deceased. This should be done before the next tax deadline. Once debts and taxes are paid, the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Feeling overwhelmed? Find out how much probate assistance costs.

How Long Can an Estate Be in Probate?

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If the executor never probates a will, the assets continue to belong to the deceased, prohibiting the official distribution of assets. If taxes and debts of the estate are paid, the estate won’t be transferred to the state. There are a few time limits to be aware of, however.

Once a will is submitted, beneficiaries (or anyone else for that matter) have a maximum of two years to contest the will. In certain circumstances, known as solemn form probate, beneficiaries are physically served a notice that the will has been submitted, and they only have 30 days to object to its validity.

Beneficiaries typically want the process to move along, as the end means receiving their inheritance and closing a difficult chapter in their lives. If the personal representative or executor never starts the probate process, it is most likely the beneficiaries will take them to court to remove them as the executor.

Likewise, if you are a personal representative and executor, it can be extremely overwhelming to accomplish each step of the probate process. A probate lawyer can seamlessly handle the entire probate process from managing any claims on the estate to handling family disputes. At Johnson, Murrell, & Associates, we handle probate to take the burden away from our clients during what is an already emotional time.

Contact a probate lawyer who can carry your burden.

Tennessee doesn’t have any specific laws on how long an estate can remain open. However, there are specific rules on how long the executor has to do specific steps within the probate process and limitations on how long someone has to challenge a will.

At Johnson, Murrell, & Associates, we understand that handling a loved one’s estate and bills after their passing is an emotional, stressful experience. Our job is to make your life easier, which means guiding you through the process so you understand what’s to come. To schedule a consultation, call us at 865-453-9943 or schedule an appointment.

Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson is a partner at Johnson, Murrell & Associates specializing in probate law. He is a University of Tennessee College of Law graduate, and his experience includes serving on the Leadership Tomorrow Advisory Board, the Sevierville Commons Association, and the Board of Directors for the United Way of Sevier County.