A lot of people think that they do not need an estate plan because they simply want their assets to pass to their spouse, their children or some combination of the two. However, foregoing an estate plan can have disastrous consequences. This is because those who pass away without an estate plan subject their assets to the state’s intestacy laws. Depending on the makeup of one’s family, assets can be distributed in one of a variety of ways.


One common occurrence is when an individual passes away leaving behind a spouse and children. Under Tennessee law, a surviving spouse will either receive one-third of an estate or an equal share of a surviving child’s share, whichever is greater. This may work for some, but for others who want to leave all of their assets to a spouse or leave a disproportionate amount of assets to each child, it does not support the best interests of the estate. The division looks differently, too, if there is no spouse and no children. In some cases, assets may pass to paternal and maternal sides of an individual’s family, and in other instances, property may pass directly to the state.


Intestate succession can present a whole host of problems. It can unintentionally disinherit step-children, and it might leave assets to an individual who had a terrible relationship with the individual who passed a way. These circumstances can leave loved ones disgruntled and confused, which may not have been an individual’s intentions at all.


To avoid these outcomes, Tennesseans should think about seeking legal guidance in the creation and modification of estate plans. Yet, even when a will is made, it may be subject to differing interpretations which, again, may lead to unintended disinheritance. Those who feel cheated by the interpretation of a will may likewise want to consider seeking assistance for any probate litigation that may arise and be warranted.