If You Die Without a Will, You Die Intestate – Why Does It Matter?

In 2012 AARP polled 600 baby boomers and found that 41% did not have a Will. If 41% of boomers do not have a Will at the time of their death, they will have died intestate. Let’s look at the complications this can create for their families.

In Tennessee when you die intestate, the assets that you own in your sole name (no joint owner) pass to your closest living relative(s). Jointly owned assets pass to the surviving joint owner. Assets controlled by a beneficiary designation (life insurance, retirement plans, etc.) will be distributed to the beneficiary. The problem comes with assets that have neither a joint owner nor a beneficiary. Those assets will pass by the Tennessee laws of intestate succession. 

Intestate Succession in Tennessee

Through intestate succession in Tennessee, your spouse receives 1/3rd of your assets and your children (if you have more than one) inherit the remaining 2/3rds to be divided equally. If you have a spouse and only one child, each receives one-half of your intestate estate. This plan may work fine for you, but it may cause complications and conflicts if any of the following circumstances exist at your death:

  • you are estranged from your spouse;
  • your children are minors;
  • your children are estranged from your spouse or from each other; or
  • your children or spouse have creditor problems or addictions that make it unwise for them to receive assets outright.

End of Life Planning is Important

Healthy estate planning is as important as a healthy lifestyle. Ignoring end of life planning is as reckless as ignoring your physical health. Understanding the types of assets that do not have to pass through a will is just as important as understanding those assets that need to pass through a will.

Who Will Carry Out Your Wishes

If you die intestate who is in charge?  If are single, but have children, then one of your children can be Executor, but they will all have to agree on who should serve in this capacity.  Often siblings become adversarial when inheritance issues arise. Your entire estate could be lost through legal battles between relatives. With a carefully planned Will in place and a responsible individual named as Executor, your children are less likely to fight over the estate.

Domestic Partners – How to Prepare

What if you and your partner are of the same sex?  On one day the laws of a state recognize the marriage and the next day they don’t.  If you want to be sure that your partner inherits your estate, make sure you have an attorney-drafted Will in place that leaves your estate to your partner. Otherwise, the estate could go to your parents, siblings or children, leaving your partner out entirely.

Licensed Attorney in Estate Planning Protects Your Wealth

Working with an estate planner, especially one who is a licensed attorney, will give you the ability to design your wishes for your assets with full understanding of current estate laws.  Planning for a spouse, significant other, partner, children or grandchildren can assure that your family’s wealth is protected.

Licensed Attorney in Estate Planning to Protect You and Your Loved Ones

An estate planning attorney, can help you understand the complexities of estate laws. She can simplify the process to ensure that your wishes are followed. She will be there when your loved ones need a guide to walk with them through the legal process. To die intestate will leave your loved ones without guidance and help, and the possibility that your wishes go unheard.

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