I think I'll define a couple of important terms to begin. When someone is said to die "testate," it means that this person has died with a valid Will. You can probably guess what "intestate" means then dying without a valid Will.
There is myth that I hear often: if you die intestate, your property will naturally be distributed to the right people. By "right people," they typically mean their family; and while the property of an intestate decedent is distributed to his or her heirs, you cannot end the conversation there. Every state defines "heirs" as it sees fit. The progression of your belongings in Tennessee might not be quite what you would expect.
People usually make incorrect assumptions regarding the split of an estate between spouses and children. Most think that if they pass away intestate, everything will suddenly belong to their spouses. That's simply not true if you have children. If an intestate decedent is survived by a spouse only and no children, the surviving spouse will inherit everything. However, if an intestate decedent is survived by a spouse and at least one child, the child and the spouse will both inherit some portion of the estate. According to Tennessee law, if there is one surviving child, the spouse and the child will split the estate equally. If there are two surviving children, the spouse and each child will inherit one-third of the estate. If there are more than two surviving children, the spouse will inherit one-third and the children will split the remaining two-thirds of the estate. Bottom line if you pass away and are survived by a spouse and at least one child, your spouse will not inherit your entire estate unless you create a Will stating so.
To be sure that your property is distributed to the right people, you should have a Will that explicitly outlines your plan for the property. Hopefully it is now clear that this is important even if you simply want everything to go to your spouse. We would be glad to walk through this process with you.
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