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Many people living in Cleveland, Tennessee, and in the other neighborhoods in and around Chattanooga may have a natural desire to plan their estates so as to avoid probate. The probate process has, after all, gotten somewhat of a bad name in recent decades as a time-consuming and expensive legal obstacle.

There may be good reasons a Tennessee resident wants to create an estate plan that avoids probate, and how hard one wants to try to do so is ultimately a personal decision one should make with his or her attorney. Still, it is helpful to have a better understanding of what exactly a person is avoiding.

The probate process begins shortly after a person with at least some wealth dies. Those who do not own a lot of assets, or who have their money either in beneficiary accounts like a 401(k) or in a jointly held piece of real estate, may be able to avoid the probate process in favor of a different system.

Basically, probate is the system, supervised by a court to some extent, that ensures the property of the person who died gets passed down according to the person’s wishes, that is, after all just debts get paid.

The probate process is also the time in which a person’s will, if there is any, gets legally confirmed and becomes a binding document. If the person did not leave a will, property passes according to Tennessee’s laws.

During the process, the court will appoint a person, often called an executor or personal representative, who will be in charge of collecting and distributing the property according to Tennessee law and the terms of the will.

It is not always a bad thing to go through the probate process, especially when there is no controversy surrounding the estate. However, it is a sometimes complicated legal proceeding that requires the help of an experienced attorney.