One way to explain why it’s so important to draft a will is to explain what happens if a person dies without one. For those who die without an estate plan, Tennessee imposes one of its own.
Under Tennessee law, when a person dies without a valid will, the distribution of their estate is controlled by the state’s law of intestate succession. This leads to a time-consuming process, and at the end of it, the results may be completely different from what the deceased would have wanted. What’s more, all that time means money, and the costs of the process come out of the estate itself. This means there’s less to go around when it is finally time to start distributing assets.
Tennessee’s law of intestate succession seeks to distribute the estate to the next of kin. If the deceased left behind a surviving spouse and no living children or grandchildren, distribution is relatively simple: The entire estate goes to the surviving spouse. But if there is a surviving spouse as well as living children or grandchildren, the surviving spouse can claim whichever is greater: one-third of the estate or the same share as one of the deceased’s children.
The formula gets more complicated in families with more complicated situations. Essentially, the law requires going up and down the family tree of the deceased, looking for places to distribute the assets of the estate. This can lead to some unwelcome results, particularly in blended families. Sometimes a beloved stepchild is left out while assets go to distant relatives.
Customize your plan
You know your family better than the probate court does. You know your wishes better than the Tennessee law of intestate succession does. When you draft your will, you tailor it to your family and your wishes. This ensures that your estate goes where you want it to. And, importantly, it saves your loved ones a lot of time and frustration, and helps make sure that you leave them a more significant legacy.