Individuals seeking to be appointed as Executor, Administrator, or Personal Representative of Tennessee estates should be prepared to divulge their criminal convictions to the probate court. While most of us may not be a member of the Soprano family, as of May 10, 2019, a new law requires those seeking to be appointed as Personal Representative of a probate estate to disclose any prior felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions. The law makes no distinction as to the class of misdemeanors, so be prepared to report your traffic violations in addition to more serious criminal activity.
Anyone petitioning to be appointed as fiduciary of an estate must now include a statement in their petition to the court disclosing any misdemeanor convictions, felony convictions, or sentencing to a penitentiary. T.C.A. § 30-1-117(a) lays out the information required to be included in a sworn Petition to Admit Will to Probate and Appoint Executor, or in an intestate estate, a Petition for Letters of Administration. New Paragraph (a)(10) requires that in addition to the petitioner’s name, age, address, and relationship to the Decedent, the Petition must include “a statement of any felony or misdemeanor convictions, and a statement of any sentence of imprisonment in a penitentiary.”
Lest you feel comfortable leaving out any of your convicted sins in the petition you just swore was true to the best of your knowledge, T.C.A. § 30-1-111 now requires the personal representative swear in the Oath that all of the statements he or she has made in the petition “[a]re true and accurate and the representative is not disqualified from serving because of having been sentenced to imprisonment in a penitentiary . . .” Practitioners should update their forms accordingly and check with local courts to ensure there are no new forms required to comply with the new statute.
Assuming this new law was put in place to enforce T.C.A. § 40-20-115 prohibiting individuals previously convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in a penitentiary from serving as Executor, Administrator, Guardian, Fiduciary, or Conservator, it’s interesting to note the new disclosure statements require proposed fiduciaries to report convictions for both misdemeanors and felonies. In comparison, Section 115 only disqualifies individuals for convictions and sentencing to penitentiaries without reference to the classification of the crime. Generally, sentencing to a penitentiary requires conviction of a felony, so one would assume the intent is to disqualify those convicted of a felony and that the disclosure of any lesser convictions would only be for the court’s consideration in determining the suitability of the individual seeking appointment.
Andrea Anderson is based in the firm’s Knoxville office. Estate Planning, Probate, and Trust Administration are Andi’s primary focus, and her practice routinely includes federal and state taxation, business formation, and charitable organizations ranging from formation and operations to dissolution. Andi started her career working in a boutique estate planning law firm where she developed her skills in drafting and implementing estate plans and advising clients on how to achieve their planning goals in a tax efficient manner.
Ms. Anderson served as president of Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity while attending The University of Tennessee College of Law and received special orders from the IRS to practice as a student attorney in the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, where she represented clients in tax controversy matters.