"The Disclaimer" - The following is a summary/outline and does apply to your particular situation and is not legal advice. It's general information.
The probate process in Tennessee is not particularly long. If an estate is worth less than $50,000, excluding real estate, there is a simpler process using a "Small Estate Affidavit" that can be used to gather and distribute estate assets.
The following is a summary of the probate process- depending on the estate, will, creditors and beneficiaries, there can be a lot of differences. Typically, the Executor of a will contacts an attorney after the death of the testator (person who wrote the will), or a relative will contact an attorney if there is no Will. The probate estate is opened by filing a petition to probate along with the Will if a Will exists. If there is a Will, the Executor will decide whether to open the estate in common form or solemn form.
Depending on the county, the process can go one of several ways. In Davidson County, a hearing will be set before the Judge or Special Master.
If there is a Will, the Judge will determine if the Will meets the requirements of a duly executed and witnessed Will, and if there are objections for Wills filed in solemn form. The Personal Representative will be appointed and Letters Testamentary issued. The Personal Representative will be responsible for marshalling the assets of the decedent, dealing with any creditors, and distributing the assets according to the terms of the Will.
If there is not a Will, then the Judge will determine if the heirs at law have been notified of the proceeding and if there are objections to the appointment of the person named in the Petition as Administrator for the estate. A spouse has preference for appointment as the Adminsitrator. The Administrator will be responsible for marshalling the assets of the decedent, dealing with any creditors, and distributing the assets according to the laws of intestate succession.
There are other duties for the Personal Representative or Administrator, such as filing of accountings, inventory, status reports, and obtaining a TennCare release. Decisions also need to be made regarding the sale of assets, distribution of assets, and paying or objecting to claims of creditors.
A full probate takes a minimum of approximately 5 months to complete because creditors have 4 months from the date of publication of the notice to creditors to make a claim against the estate.
At the end of the probate process, the lawyer will usually close the estate with the written agreement of all residuary beneficiaries and approval of the Court.