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Duties of an Executor in TN Probate

Dealing with Probate paperwork

Becoming an executor of probate in Tennessee can seem overwhelming. Managing probate is like any other job, if you don’t know all the responsibilities, you are likely to fail somewhere.

This list of duties will help you succeed as an estate executor. Some of these tasks my not apply to your situation. The pre-death planning done by the decedent and the size of the estate determine what you will be expected to do.

Organize the Funeral

While not a legal requirement, most executors are responsible for making the funeral arrangements for the decedent. This includes buying the headstone, scheduling the funeral, writing the obituary, and more.

Many times executors must take physical possession of material assets like vehicles, property, and valuables. They also assume control of all financial assets like investments and banking/savings accounts. Doing this immediately is best to ensure smooth transition of payments.

Determine Estate Assets

Locating and possessing all of the assets can be difficult, especially if the decedent owned assets unknown to the executor. In Tennessee, it is common for executors to learn of undiscovered assets when talking with the decedent’s advisors and friends, reviewing tax forms, or even from statements in the mail.

Executors assign a value to all assets. Bank accounts are easy enough, but real estate, cars, and other personal property can prove challenging. If determining the price of the asset is not straightforward, experts can be brought in to assist. Real estate experts prevent executors from misrepresenting the value of real estate assets.

Submit to Open Probate (If Necessary)

Sometimes, the estate of the decedent is not required to go through probate. If the only assets are IRA’s, life insurance policies, or any other asset that automatically transfers to the beneficiaries, probate is not required. Also, a small estate affidavit is the only requirement in Tennessee when the value of all the assets is less than $50,000.

Manage the Assets

It is the duty of the executor to oversee and safeguard all assets of the estate while probate is open. The fiduciary responsibility of an executor requires them to act in the best interest of the estate. Protecting assets could mean securing them from theft, maintaining insurance on all valuable property, or maintaining real property.

Real estate in Tennessee requires special attention. Regular maintenance like cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, and checking the mail are important to continue even if the property is vacant. Repairs may be needed if there is a issue such as a busted pipe or air conditioning unit failing.

When the decedent is a business owner, the executor must keep the business in operation unless the work was only performed by the decedent themself. Hiring a professional manager may be the best option depending on the situation.

If the decedent owned investments, it is usually best to get advice from a professional on how to maintain them. Reinvesting, holding, or cashing out stocks, crypto, or other investments can make the executor vulnerable if the decision is not considered the best management practice for the estate.

Alert All Groups Necessary

Many people must be informed of the decedent’s passing. Some examples are the heirs, creditors, financial institutions, life insurance companies, utility companies, post office, DMV, IRS, and social security administration.

Pay the Taxes and Debts

Tennessee Executors must be sure to pay all taxes that the decedent would owe if still living. This includes federal estate tax, state estate tax, state inheritance tax, local property tax, income tax for the last year of life, and income tax for the estate once it has been settled.

The assets should not be distributed to the heirs until all debts and liens have been paid. The estate must be used to pay these debts. If an executor distributes the estate before all debts are paid, they can be held personally liable for the difference, regardless of whether they knew of the debt at the time.

State the Final Value

Once all debts are paid, a Final Accounting of the estate must be presented to the court. This shows all assets, changes in the value of any assets, distributions, income, and expenses.

Complete Probate Promptly

The time it takes to settle the estate varies depending on many factors. An executor must be working toward completion within a decent timeframe. If heirs become dissatisfied with the speed of the process, they can request the court remove the executor for failing to work at a reasonable pace.

Do Right by the Estate

As stated earlier, executors are fiduciaries of the estate, meaning that they must put the interests of the estate above all others. Making decisions to benefit someone over the estate can lead to serious consequences.

Always document actions taken for the estate. When uncomfortable with deciding the best option, seek out professional guidance.


Jordan Crain is the founder of New Leaf House Buyers. He is a licensed civil engineer and uses this unique skillset to understand homeowner's problems and helps them find a way to get rid of their housing headaches. He lives in Clarksville, TN with his wife and sons where he enjoys hiking at Land Between the Lakes NRA.

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