When someone dies without a
will, the state’s “intestate succession” laws go into effect, thereby distributing a decedent’s assets
according to state law. But what is “intestate succession”
and what does it mean? It simply refers to how assets are distributed
when someone dies without a will or
Suppose your estate was worth roughly around $1,000,000 and you suddenly
died one day in a horrific car crash. At the time of your death, you had
never gotten around to creating a will or trust. So, you are said to have
died “intestate,” which means you died without a will. Whenever
someone dies without a will in Tennessee, their assets are distributed
to their closest relatives under the state’s intestate succession laws.
Which Assets Are Distributed Without a Will?
Essentially, only those assets that would have been passed to someone through
a will would pass under the state’s intestate succession laws. For
the assets to be distributed under state law, they must be in the decedent’s
name alone; they cannot be jointly owned with another party.
There are a number of assets that do not pass through a person’s
will, and they are not subject to the state’s intestate succession
laws. Such assets do not pass through a will or the state’s intestate
succession laws because they have
beneficiary designations, or because they are in a trust.
The following assets are not controlled by intestate succession laws:
- IRAs and 401(k)s
- Other retirement accounts
- Payable-on-death bank accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Property that is in a living trust
- Property that is owned with someone else in tenancy by the entirety or
The above assets are
not a part of the probate process, nor are they impacted by intestate succession. They will pass to the
named beneficiary or the surviving co-owner, regardless if there is a
will or not.
Who Receives the Assets in Tennessee?
Under Tennessee’s intestate succession laws, who gets what depends
if you have a surviving spouse or children when you pass away. If you
die with a spouse but no children, your spouse gets everything.
If you have children but no spouse, your children inherit everything. If
you die and you have a spouse and children, the spouse and children will
be entitled to an equal share of your property, but your spouse’s
share cannot be less than 1/3 of your property.
If you did with parents, but no surviving spouse or children, your parents
will receive everything. If you die with siblings, but no spouse, children,
or parents, your siblings shall inherit your entire estate.
Avoiding Probate with a Revocable Living Trust
For legal representation with an estate planning or probate matter in Nashville,
contact my firm today. I look forward to helping you.