Order of Succession for Wills

By A.L. Kennedy

Wills can be used to leave property to children and/or other relatives after the testator's -- the person writing the will -- dies. If a beneficiary named in a will dies before the testator, the property that he was to receive from the will may go to his own heirs. The order of succession for wills determines what and how much the testator's heirs receive.

Per Stirpes

A will may specify that the testator's property be given in equal shares to his beneficiaries. This is legally known as "per stirpes," sometimes also referred to as taking "by right of representation." In this case, the order of succession distributes the property a deceased beneficiary would have received by dividing it up among that beneficiary's living heirs. For instance, if the testator leaves his property in equal shares to his three children, and if one of these children, who has two kids of his own, dies before the testator does, that child's two children split their parent's share -- which is one-third, since there are three children -- and receive one-sixth of the estate each.

Per Capita to Descendents

In a "per capita" situation, everyone named in the will receives an equal part of the estate instead of merely receiving the portion granted to the "top level" of beneficiaries. For instance, if a testator's will leaves his estate in equal shares per capita to his descendants, and the testator has three children, but one has died, leaving two grandchildren, the two living children and two living grandchildren would each receive one-fourth of the estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Per Capita to Children

In large families, the testator may wish to leave his property per capita to his children in order to prevent the estate from being divided up into a large number of shares, according to attorney Joel A. Schoenmeyer. For instance, if the testator has three children, but one dies before the testator, leaving behind two grandchildren, the estate is distributed per capita to the testator's children, with each child receiving half of the estate. The grandchildren receive nothing, because their parent is dead and therefore cannot receive anything from the estate.

Contingent Beneficiaries

One way to prevent the order of succession for wills from leaving your property to people you didn't intend is to name contingent beneficiaries in your will, according to the American Bar Association. A contingent beneficiary is someone who receives the share given to your named beneficiary if the named beneficiary dies before you do. An attorney who practices estate law in your state can help you set up your will so that those you wish to leave property to will receive it, even if someone dies before you do.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Beneficiaries Without a Will in Tennessee



Related articles

Hawaii Intestate Probate Laws

A properly executed will gives you the ability to freely distribute your assets after death. In Hawaii, if you don't leave a will or if it fails to meet certain requirements, your property will pass according to a rigid set of rules outlined by state law. These rules are inflexible, and they prioritize heirs based on their legal relationship to you. Surviving spouses and children take first, followed by parents and siblings, then grandparents. If no surviving family members can be found, your estate becomes the property of the state.

Estate Laws Without Wills in the State of Tennessee

Tennessee's probate laws are much the same for both intestate estates -- those without a will -- and testate estates, those that do involve wills. Procedural rules are similar, but with intestate estates, statutes control two important aspects of the process. Dying without a will does not avoid probate, but it can make it a bit more complicated.

Tennessee Estate Laws

Tennessee's estate laws govern how a person's property, collectively known as the estate, is to be divided upon his death. Tennessee law sets forth the requirements for a valid will, but if a person doesn't have a will, the law contains intestacy provisions, setting forth the order in which his heirs may inherit. Tennessee law will protect a deceased's spouse if she is disinherited.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

The Rules of Inheritance

The rules of inheritance are set according to state law. Each state has its own statutes that explain which relatives ...

How to Determine Who Is an Heir

Although the terms "heir" and "beneficiary" are often used as though they mean the same thing, they do not. ...

Who Are Heirs to a Last Will & Testament?

The term “heir” is often confused with “beneficiary” when, in fact, definitions of the two differ. Heirs are ...

North Carolina's Inheritance Law

When a person dies with a valid will in North Carolina, his property will pass to the beneficiaries he named in his ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED