A large number of Tennessee residents have never created a will. In cases where a spouse without a will dies, the other spouse will be entitled to the greatest portion of the estate under Tennessee's intestacy laws. Let's take a look at how this process works.
The amount that the spouse of a deceased person can receive will largely depend on the living descendants of the decedent. If, for example, there are living sons, daughters, grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, these individuals will be able to receive some portion of the estate. If no living descendants are available to receive an inheritance, then the spouse will receive everything. Even if there are living descendants, though, the spouse's share must be at least one-third of the estate.
As an illustration, imagine that Jerry is married to Isabel. The couple has five adult children. They jointly own their home together, and Jerry has listed Isabel as the beneficiary of his 401(k), but he never created a will. After Jerry's death, Isabel will receive the house since she's joint owner, and she'll receive the individual retirement account (IRA) funds since she's listed as the beneficiary. These items will not be classified as intestate property. There is, however, an additional $600,000 of property in Jerry's estate, which would have been covered under a will. Isabel will receive one-third or $200,000 of this property, and the five children will split the other two-thirds.
This is how estates are distributed intestate when a Tennessee resident passes away before finalizing his or her will. If your relative died without a will on file, having a discussion with a Tennessee inheritance lawyer would be a great way to better understand your potential inheritance rights.
Source: Mary C. Lagrone, "Wills and will contests," accessed April 27, 2017