What happens if a family member dies without a will?
A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate.” If a person dies intestate, then the laws of the state where the person resided determines how his or her property will be distributed.
In Tennessee, the governing statute provides that, if a person (the decedent) dies intestate, the decedent’s spouse and children are first in line to inherit. If there is no spouse, then the children inherit the estate in equal shares. If there are no children, the spouse inherits the entire estate.
If the decedent is survived by both a spouse and children, the spouse will inherit no less than one third of the estate or a child’s share, whichever is greater. If a decedent dies with a spouse and one child, then each will get one half of the estate. If a decedent dies with a spouse and three children, then the spouse will get one third of the estate and each child will receive one third of the remaining estate. If a child predeceased the decedent and had issue, then the issue would inherit that child’s share.
What if the decedent is not survived by a spouse or child?
- If a decedent is not survived by a spouse or descendants, then the decedent’s parents would inherit the estate.
- If a decedent is not survived by a spouse, descendants or parents, then the decedent’s siblings would equally divide the estate.
- If a decedent is not survived by a spouse, descendants, parents or siblings, then the decedent’s grandparents would inherit the estate.
- If a decedent is not survived by any family, then the estate could potentially escheat (revert) to the state of Tennessee.
Whether or not you have a will, it may still be necessary to have your estate probated by the court and an administrator would be appointed to make sure the estate was properly distributed.
To avoid having your property distributed by the state, you can execute a valid will and leave your property as you desire. This can also be helpful to your family to leave detailed instructions as to how you would like your property distributed.