Intro to Probate: Important Terms

By Arthur M. Fowler, III - 1/17/2024


A beneficiary is someone named in a person's Last Will to receive a gift or inheritance after the person passes away.

Estate Assets

Not everything a person owns becomes part of their probate estate when they die. Estate assets usually include items solely owned by the deceased, without any specific beneficiary named.


An heir is someone who has the right to inherit a deceased person's belongings when that person didn't leave a Last Will. This is based on the state's rules for who gets what when there's no Last Will. 


The legal status of a person who has died without leaving a valid Last Will.

Personal Representative

This is the person chosen by a court to manage and oversee the deceased person's estate. They might also be called an Executor, Executrix, Administrator, or Administratrix.


The legal status of a person who has died leaving a valid Last Will.

Valid and Enforceable Debts

Not all debts left behind by a deceased person need to be paid during probate. For a debt to be considered valid and enforceable, the creditor usually needs to make a formal request to the probate court for payment.

If you want to know more about probate in Bristol, Elizabethton, Erwin, Gray, Greeneville, Johnson City, Jonesborough, Kingsport, or Rogersville, Tennessee, please call us at (423) 929-3000.