Many people believe that if you die without a will, that everything passes to your surviving spouse. Did you know that is not necessarily true? Read on to learn more from a probate lawyer about what a surviving spouse is entitled to in Tennessee.
If you die WITHOUT a Will
If you die without a Will, the distribution of your assets will be governed by the Tennessee laws of intestate succession. If you die “intestate,” it means that you die without leaving a Will. This is what will happen if you die without a Will:
- If you have a surviving spouse, he or she will receive your entire Estate if you had no descendants at the time of your death.
- If you are survived by descendants, your spouse is entitled to either (a) one-third (1/3) of your estate, or (b) a child’s share, whichever is greater.
If you die WITH a Will
Even if you die with a Will that does not include your spouse, he or she will still be entitled to a portion of your assets. Your surviving spouse may take what it called an “Elective Share” against your Estate, which is based on the length of the marriage. There is a sliding scale, but the maximum Elective Share a surviving spouse can take is forty percent (40%) of the net Estate if the couple was married nine (9) years or more.
You Cannot Disinherit Your Spouse in Tennessee
Whether you die with or without a Will, in all but a few rare cases, your spouse will be entitled to a portion of your Estate. Generally, you must be legally divorced from your spouse in order to prevent that person from receiving a share of your Estate.
Other Allowances for Spouses
Other allowances for surviving spouses (which may also apply to minor children) include a $50,000 exemption for personal property, a reasonable allowance for a year’s worth of support according to the previous standard of living, and either the right to the homestead or $5,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the home. In some cases, a surviving spouse might be entitled to certain accounts of less than $10,000 or wages due to the decedent if no formal probate estate is opened.
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