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Dying Without a Will

A majority of Americans do not have a will in place to establish where their assets should pass or who should handle their affairs if they were to pass away. While there are a number of benefits to having a will in place, dying without a will is not uncommon. When someone dies without a will, the legal term is known as dying “intestate.” Accordingly, the state of Tennessee has enacted intestacy laws to designate where a person’s assets should go upon dying without a will. These laws direct the probate court to oversee the distribution of the estate to the heirs at law. If you have questions about a loved one passing away without a will, contact the Nashville probate attorneys at The Higgins Firm.

Is Probate Necessary When Someone Dies without a Will?

The probate court is still a necessity when someone dies without a will. When someone dies intestate, the probate court handles the decedent’s estate very similar to the way that it would handle a decedent who had a will in place. The major difference is that the will directs where the assets should go rather than the intestacy statutes. The other difference when someone dies without a will is that there is not an executor explicitly appointed. Rather, an heir at law can petition the court to be appointed as the administrator of the estate. The administrator performs many of the same functions that an executor performs including paying any debts and distributing any remaining assets. However, the administrator again must distribute the assets according to the laws of intestacy.

Who Recovers When a Person Dies without a Will?

As stated previously, Tennessee law sets forth who recovers when a person dies without a will. These statutes designate the heirs at law and what percentage of the estate each person will receive. Obviously, a person’s spouse and children are given first priority. If a person dies intestate without any children, the spouse recovers the entire estate. If the person left a spouse and children, the surviving spouse will receive either one-third of the entire estate or a child’s share of the estate, whichever is greater. In other words, the least that a surviving spouse with children could recover is one-third. If the decedent left only one child, the surviving spouse and child would be entitled to equal shares of the estate.

The distribution begins with the closer relationships and moves outward depending on if there are any living heirs. If the individual died without a spouse, children are given first priority with each child receiving an even share. If the person died without any children or spouse, the individual’s parents would recover in equal shares. If the person did not have any surviving parents, the estate is divided among the decedent’s siblings. From there it is divided among the decedent’s grandparents if there are no other remaining living heirs.

Contact The Higgins Firm with your Questions

If your loved one passed away without a will and you have questions regarding his or her estate, we encourage you to contact the probate attorneys at The Higgins Firm. Our team of Nashville probate lawyers would be happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding the death of your loved one.