I was recently speaking with a husband and wife couple following one of my educational events on avoiding probate and unnecessary estate settlement costs. This family had a very common question for me.
"Dan, we don't own too much. We only own our home, some savings and retirement accounts totalling about $100,000. I don't think we need to do anything. What happens if we both die without a Will?"
This is a common misconception, unfortunately, that leads to families facing unnecessary taxes, costs, and attorney's fees after the death of a loved one. As I tell every client, every person, regardless of wealth, is in need of a comprehensive estate plan to protect their loved ones after their death.
However, if you pass away without a Last Will and Testament, you are said to have died intestate. This is a legal term that means you died without a will. If you die intestate, then the State of Tennessee has decided what will happen to your assets after your death. Many people are shocked to learn what the State of Tennessee has planned for their estate after death.
The most common misconception is that if you are married, then your assets pass to your spouse after death automatically. This is absolutely not true! If you die without a Will in Tennessee, then your estate is divided equally among your spouse and living children. Although, your spouse cannot receive less than 1/3 of your estate.
Many people are shocked to learn this when I tell them this fact. Therefore, regardless of wealth, everyone, over the age of 21, is in need of a Last Will and Testament. Especially, if you are married and with children, you need a comprehensive estate plan in place to protect your family in the event of your death.
If you have questions about estate planning in general, or you are interested in setting up your own estate plan, please contact us to schedule an initial no cost, estate planning session to discuss your goals and needs.
Daniel A. Perry
Estate Planning Attorney