In Tennessee, if someone dies without a will, it’s called intestate. This means that the state will decide how to distribute your assets and who will take care of your minor children.
Intestate succession laws are is governed by the state and the order of distribution is set forth in the Tennessee Code.
Tennessee law directs your assets to your closest relatives, beginning with your surviving spouse and children. If you do not have either a spouse or children, your grandchildren or your parents will receive your property.
From this point, this list will continue with more distant descendants, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court fails to find any more living descendants by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
You might think “hmm… that doesn’t sound so bad.” Well, consider these scenarios:
- What if your children are minors?
- What if your parents predeceased you?
- What if you don’t want your siblings to share in your estate?
- What if you have a child with someone you are not married to?
What will happen to minor children if I don’t have a Will?
When a parent dies without any type of estate plan in place, it can create a multitude of problems for the surviving family members. One of the most pressing issues is who will take care of the minor children and what will happen to their inheritance.
If there is no guardian named in a will or other legal document, the court will appoint one. This may not be who you would have chosen. The guardian appointment can be a lengthy and expensive process. The court will also determine how the child’s assets will be managed.
Without a clear plan in place, decision-making power over a child’s welfare and finances can end up in the hands of strangers. It could cost your estate quite a bit of time and money to ensure that your assets go to your children.
These problems can be easily avoided with proper estate planning.
What will happen to my property if I don’t have a Will?
Without a valid will in place, the court will appoint an administrator to handle your entire estate. The administrator will follow the Tennessee intestacy laws to determine how to distribute your assets. This means that the state, not you or your loved ones, will determine who gets what and how your assets are distributed.
For real property such as your home or land, the law of the state where the property is located governs its distribution. If you reside in Tennessee or own property within the state, your property will be distributed according to Tennessee intestacy laws.
Precisely how property is distributed depends on several factors, including the decedent’s marital status and whether they have children.
Keep in mind that these default rules do not consider individual situations and might result in a distribution of assets that don’t match a decedent’s wishes. For example, some individuals wish to leave property to charities or establish funds for specific purposes.
Will my estate go through probate?
When a person dies intestate (without a valid will), their estate will go through probate. Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s assets and paying their debts after they die.
Probate can be a lengthy and expensive process. It can take several months, or even years, to complete. During probate, the estate will be frozen and no one will be able to access the assets. This can cause problems for the deceased person’s family and loved ones who are counting on those assets.
There are ways to avoid probate, such as setting up a trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
Do I need a will in Tennessee?
Not leaving a Last Will and Testament, and relying on the laws of succession, could potentially leave your loved ones in a bind as they begin to navigate the world of probate.
Likewise, without a will, there is no way to stop your assets from going down the family line and ending up with siblings or other distant relatives.
If you want to reserve control over your assets and designate where your assets will go after death, a solid estate plan is necessary.
Give us a call at (865) 666-6175 or click here to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation so we can learn more about you and your situation. Our goal is to give you and your loved ones peace of mind today and for the years to come.