If you die in Tennessee without first having made your Last Will and Testament, Tennessee law deems that you died intestate. The intestacy laws therefore determine who inherits your probate estate and in what proportion.
For instance, should you leave a surviving spouse but no surviving children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate. If, however, you leave a surviving spouse and one or more surviving children, your estate becomes split equally among all of them. The only exception is if your spouse and two or more of your children survive you. Since, by law, your spouse must inherit a minimum of 33% of your estate, your surviving children will receive equal shares of the other 67%.
If you leave surviving children but no surviving spouse, your entire probate estate becomes equally split between or among them.
Definition of children
Tennessee law defines “children” as follows:
- Your biological children
- Your adopted children
- Your children born out of wedlock, although if you are a man, you or they must prove their paternity
- Any child of yours conceived prior to your death but born within 10 months after your death, assuming the child lived for at least 120 hours after birth
The intestacy laws provide that your parents inherit your entire probate estate if they both survive you and you leave no surviving spouse or children. If one of your parents predeceases you, your surviving parent inherits 50% of your probate estate and your surviving siblings receive equal portions of the other 50%.
Tennessee’s intestacy laws continue on down – or up, as the case may be – your family tree to determine who inherits from you in the following situations:
- No surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings: Your nieces and nephews inherit equally.
- No surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews: Your surviving grandparents, both paternal and maternal, inherit equally.
- No surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews or grandparents: Your surviving aunts and uncles, both paternal and maternal, inherit equally.
In the unlikely event you die without leaving any surviving relatives whatsoever, your estate escheats to the State of Tennessee, meaning that Tennessee inherits it.