Updated on March 17th, 2022
A Tennessee small estate affidavit facilitates the distribution of an uncomplicated estate to the heir(s) of a deceased individual by expediting the probate process. This affidavit is reserved for relatively modest estates valued at $50,000 or less and may not be used to transfer real property. Tennessee law states that forty-five (45) days must pass after the decedent’s death before this affidavit may be filed. The deceased person’s beneficiaries or heirs may be able to petition the court to reduce this waiting period (§ 30-4-103(1)(C)).
- Statute: Chapter 4 – Small Estates
- Maximum Estate Value (§ 30-4-102(5)): $50,000
- Mandatory Waiting Period (§ 30-4-103(1)(A)): Forty-five (45) Days
- Where to File (§ 30-4-103(2)): Probate Court
How to File (3 Steps)
- Step 1 – Qualifications
- Step 2 – Complete Affidavit
- Step 3 – Certify Affidavit, Pay Bond, Distribute Assets
Step 1 – Qualifications
The small estate affidavit may administer the estate of a decedent as long as the total value of the personal property does not exceed $50,000, forty-five (45) days have passed since the decedent died, and no petition has been filed for the appointment of a personal representative.
The forty-five (45) day waiting period may be circumvented if the court is petitioned by a devisee named in the will or the decedent’s next of kin or heirs (if no will).
Step 2 – Complete Affidavit
The beneficiaries or personal representative named in the will may appoint any adult to complete the affidavit as long as all parties consent. If no will was left, the heirs or next of kin may appoint an affiant to file the affidavit.
Once the waiting period has passed, the appointed affiant may complete the Affidavit as to Small Estate. The affidavit must include the following:
- An indication of whether there is a will or not, and if the original is attached to the affidavit;
- A list of any unpaid debts, the names and addresses of each creditor, and the amount due;
- A description and the value of the decedent’s property, the names and addresses of any custodians of that property, and a schedule of all life insurance payable to the estate; and
- A list providing each beneficiary’s name, age, address, and relationship to the decedent.
Once complete, the affiant may file the affidavit with the Probate Court in the county where the decedent lived.
Step 3 – Certify Affidavit, Pay Bond, and Distribute Assets
Once the affidavit has been filed and approved by the court, the clerk will provide the affiant with certified copies of the affidavit with the clerk’s stamp and seal. The affiant may then be required to secure a bond payable to the state equal to the value of the estate. This is to ensure they fulfill their duties in distributing the estate on behalf of the heirs. The clerk may not require bond under the following circumstances:
- The will states that it is not required by the affiant;
- The sole beneficiary of the estate is the personal representative of the estate;
- All beneficiaries consent to the affiant serving without bond by filing a sworn statement; or
- The personal representative is a bank excused by the provisions in § 45-2-1005.
The affiant will be automatically released from the bond liability one (1) year after the filing of the affidavit, or if they provide another affidavit to the court that states all the decedent’s debt was paid.
The certified copies affidavit may be used by the affiant to gather the property of the decedent from its custodians and distribute it accordingly to the heirs.