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Attorney Randy Ratliff

Letters of Administration

Knowledgeable Probate Lawyer Guiding Nashville Residents

It may seem obvious, but once a person has passed away, he or she no longer has the legal capacity to engage in business transactions. However, life does go on for those left behind – bills come due, assets must be distributed, and family businesses may continue to operate. In order to properly handle the affairs of a person who has recently passed away, it is often necessary for those left behind to seek letters of administration – that is, permission from the probate court to settle the deceased person’s final affairs. Nashville probate lawyer Randy Ratliff handles these and other probate matters for clients throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties.

If you have recently lost a loved one, you may be wondering whether you need to apply for letters of administration (or letters testamentary, if your loved one had a will). This process is not always necessary, especially if your loved one took steps to avoid probate or only had certain kinds of property. Typically, life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, living trust assets, and payable-on-death bank accounts pass outside probate, without the requirement of letters of administration. Homes, land, or other property held in joint tenancy or as tenants by the entirety may also pass outside probate. If in doubt, however, it is best to check with an experienced probate attorney.

The Process of Applying for Letters of Administration in Tennessee

Technically speaking, “letters of administration” are issued when a person dies intestate (without a will), while “letters testamentary” are issued to the executor(s) of an estate in which a person had a valid will. Practically speaking, however, the letters serve the same purpose: to take care of the affairs of the deceased person. These involve matters such as giving public notice of the decedent’s passing so that creditors may file a claim against the estate, identifying (and often liquidating) the decedent’s assets, paying the decedent’s final expenses, and distributing any remaining funds or property to the decedent’s rightful heirs.

The judge of the probate court in the county in which the decedent resided at the time of his or her death has the authority to issue letters of administration, usually to one (or sometimes more) of the decedent’s heirs. This person is called the “personal representative” of the estate of the deceased person. The personal representative has the authority to act on the estate’s behalf and, when the probate process concludes, make distributions according to the law of intestate succession - that is, the statute that determines who receives property from a deceased person when he or she dies without a will. Each situation is unique, but the general order of intestate succession is spouse and children, parents, siblings, and other relatives. If no living relative can be located, the decedent’s property may go to the State of Tennessee.

Consult a Nashville Lawyer to Resolve a Probate Matter

Losing a loved one can be traumatic and emotionally difficult. Often, the last thing that family members left behind feel like doing is talking to a lawyer about probating their loved one’s estate. Still, it may be necessary to do so in order to settle the final affairs of the deceased person. Obtaining letters of administration may also be required if a loved one passed away due to another party’s negligence, such that a wrongful death lawsuit is contemplated. In either situation, it is best to consult an attorney sooner rather than later. At the Randy Ratliff Law Offices, PLLC, we help families in Nashville, Brentwood, Cool Springs, Franklin, and elsewhere in Davidson and Williamson Counties settle their loved one’s estates as efficiently as possible. We also handle trust administration, the drafting of wills, trusts, and other estate planning instruments, family law matters, and cases involving the rights of the elderly. Call us at 615-656-8282 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific legal situation.