What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Tennessee?

Many people have a bury-your-head-in-the-sand strategy for dealing with estate planning, because making a will makes them face their mortality, which is difficult for most of us.  In 2016, only 44 percent of Americans reported having a will, according to a Gallup poll. In 2005, 49 percent reported having a will, so even more people today are taking the risk of dying intestate. However, not leaving a will can impose significant consequences on your family that can easily be avoided.

If you do not have an estate plan, the state has its own plan for you. According to Tennessee’s intestate succession law, the following individuals stand to inherit your property, according to who in your family is still alive at the time of your passing:

  • Everything goes to your spouse if you have no children.
  • Your spouse gets the larger of either one-third of your estate or a share equal to a child’s share if you do have children. Your children receive the remainder.
  • Your parents get everything if you don’t have a spouse, children or grandchildren.
  • Your siblings inherit if you have no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren or parents; if you have no siblings, then your nieces and nephews inherit your property.

If you don’t want your nephew who lives in Oregon whom you have not seen for ten years to get everything you have worked your whole life for, you need a legally valid will. Not having a will can be particularly problematic if you want an unmarried partner or unrelated person to inherit from you because these individuals will have no standing without your express instructions in a will. Making your own will that directs how your property is to be divided — and to whom — keeps control in your hands.

Benefits of having a will

Even if you are fine with the way the state plans to distribute your property, you still benefit from creating a will and developing a comprehensive estate plan. An estate plan can deliver the following benefits:

  • Your wishes are clearly stated and in compliance with Tennessee or Georgia law.
  • You can minimize the value of assets that go through probate and reduce costs to your heirs.
  • You have a tailored will based on your values and priorities.
  • You can build in contingencies that provide for alternative division if someone predeceases you or you get divorced.
  • You can leave property to whom you want in the specific percentage you want.
  • You can make a plan in case of disability, directing the medical care you wish or don’t wish to receive.

There’s no reason to leave your future and that of your loved ones to chance. A will allows you to express your final wishes and control what happens to your estate, providing you and your family members peace of mind.  For help with a will in Tennessee or Georgia, call the Epstein Law Firm in Chattanooga at 423-265-5100 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.


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