What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Tennessee?

I was recently speaking with a group of people at one of our live educational events in Hendersonville, Tennessee. As always, the question will come up, “my momma had a Will, and it was relatively simple. What if she didn’t have a will, what would have happened then?”

This is a very common question that many Tennessee families have and will ask at our educational events. If you die and have a Last Will and Testament, commonly referred to as a will, you are considered to have died testate, if you die without a will, you are considered to have died intestate. As most everyone knows, a will is simply a legal document that says where your stuff will go and who will be in charge of paying your final debts after you are gone. However, probate court, government oversight, and intrusion are still required even if you have a will. Your surviving family will still have to go to court, still have to have a judge sign off on everything, and months or possibly years could pass before your estate is settled and your surviving family members inherit your remaining assets after all costs of the administration have been paid.

In addition, if you die without a will, then the process of intestate succession will govern the distribution of your assets and payment of remaining debts at your death. First, an administrator will need to be appointed and confirmed by the court. This will be the person in charge of paying the bills and final expenses. Second, a detailed accounting and inventory will need to be filed with the court and periodically updated with the court detailing all of the assets, debts, and expenses associated with your estate. All of this will be public record, and anyone can go down to the courthouse and see what you owned, who inheriting what, and how much debt you is owed at the time of your death. Finally, a judge will have to sign off on the final accounting and distribution of assets before your surviving family members will receive their inheritance after your death. This process can last anywhere from six months to two years or longer and cost upward of $20,000 or more.

It is because of all the questions, concerns, and problems that can be left for the surviving family members to deal with when a loved one passes away that many of our clients prefer to make things as simple as possible for their surviving family members. This can be accomplished by putting in place a revocable living trust. By establishing a revocable living trust and funding that trust with all of your assets, the probate process can be completely bypassed after you die, and your assets can be distributed to your loved ones within days or weeks as opposed to months or years. In addition, a revocable living trust will help your surviving family avoid all the unnecessary court costs, attorney’s fees, and all the miscellaneous other costs that are associated with a drawn out and intrusive probate court process.

If you have questions about estate planning in Tennessee, establishing a revocable living trust or an irrevocable Medicaid trust, avoiding nursing home poverty and Medicaid planning, or any other estate planning topics, then I encourage you to attend one of our free live educational events scheduled this month. At these events, you will hear a lot of real life stories about families that paid thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses, families that were able to avoid unnecessary expenses, and families that were able to protect their assets from unnecessary nursing home costs and expenses.

I look forward to speaking with you at one of our upcoming live educational events!

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