Tennessee Estate Laws on Intestacy

By Maggie Lourdes

A Tennessee resident who dies without a will leaves behind an intestate estate. Tennessee intestate succession statutes determine how such an estate is divided among the descendants of the deceased, who is known as the decedent. Only property that is owned solely by the decedent is governed by intestate succession statutes. Property left in a trust or property that a decedent owns jointly with survivorship rights is not subject to intestate succession.

Opening Intestate Estates

An intestate estate must be opened in the Tennessee probate court in the county in which the decedent resided. The court appoints an estate administrator, who acts like an executor, to gather the estate's assets and distribute them according to the intestate succession statutes. The administrator must publish notice of the court action in a local newspaper so the decedent's creditors have the opportunity to file claims against the estate. The administrator also must file an inventory with the court listing all the estate's assets and their values.

Notifying Heirs

Tennessee intestate succession statutes give a surviving spouse a decedent's entire estate unless the decedent also leaves behind children. In this case, the spouse and the decedent's children share in the estate; the surviving spouse receives either one-third of the entire estate or the same share as one of the surviving children, whichever amount is greater. If a decedent dies single with surviving children, they equally inherit her estate. If a child predeceases the decedent, his children inherit his share. If no children or grandchildren are left behind, any surviving parents of the decedent equally inherit the estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Remote Heirs

If no spouse, children, grandchildren or parents survive a decedent, intestate succession distributes to more remote heirs. Brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins are next in line to inherit. If no living heirs can be located, a decedent's intestate estate goes to the state of Tennessee through a legal doctrine called escheat. An administrator should make reasonable efforts to locate heirs to avoid the escheat of an estate.

Closing Intestate Estates

An administrator must pay all the intestate estate's legal debts and file all required estate tax returns. Once all debts are paid, the administrator may request permission from the probate court to distribute the net estate to the heirs. After he distributes the assets, the administrator must file an accounting with the court, showing all estate debts and all property distributions. He can then request that the court close the estate. Any and all applicable court fees must be paid up at the time an estate is closed.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
The Inheritance Hierarchy Without a Will in New York State


Related articles

Virginia Inheritance Law for Siblings

If your brother or sister dies owning property in Virginia, your sibling’s will and Virginia law determine whether you inherit anything from the estate. If he left a valid will naming you as a beneficiary, you are eligible to inherit as his will directs, after his creditors are paid. If he didn’t leave a valid will, you may inherit under certain circumstances.

Dying Without a Will in Kentucky

If a person dies without a valid will, the law describes it as dying “intestate.” In this situation, the laws of the state where he lived dictate the allocation of his estate. In Kentucky, Chapters 391 and 392 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes set out the law relating to distribution of assets when an individual dies without a will. Kentucky operates a complex system of dower and succession laws to provide for the surviving spouse and other relatives of the deceased, known as the decedent.

Administrator Responsibilities for Estate Sales Without a Will

When a person dies without a will, the state probate court will appoint an individual to oversee the transfer of his property to any living heirs. This person is referred to as the administrator; it is his job to value all of the deceased person's assets and make sure all outstanding debts and taxes are paid before distributing any property.

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

Related articles

Florida Probate Court Laws of the Deceased

Generally, probate is the process of gathering a deceased person’s estate, paying his final debts and distributing the ...

Probate Laws for No Will in the State of Maine

Maine probate courts oversee the distribution of decedents' estates to their heirs. When a person dies without a will, ...

Massachusetts Laws Regarding the Administrator of an Estate

Probate is the court-supervised process whereby the assets of a deceased person are collected and distributed according ...

Children's Rights When a Father Dies With No Will

Intestate succession statutes distribute a decedent's property when no will or other estate plan, such as a trust, is ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED