Understanding Wills And How They Are Handled
Some people do not believe they need a will. The best gauge of whether you need a will is whether you want to make life as difficult as possible for your heirs. If so, then no, you should not have a will. Of course, this means the default inheritance established by Tennessee law will dictate who inherits everything you leave behind, so if you don’t agree with this, you will want to create a will even if it will make life easier for your heirs.
If you’re ready to do a simple will, we at Tidwell & Associates in Chattanooga offer a flat-rate package for a basic will, living will, healthcare power of attorney, and financial power of attorney for $750. We also can assist with all aspects of the probate and estate administration process. If your situation would be better handled via a trust or more complicated vehicles of managing inheritance, we recommend going to an attorney who specializes in setting up trusts and are happy to refer you to one.
Who Inherits Your Assets And Property?
Note that in Tennessee, if you are married and you have children, the default inheritance is that your spouse will only get 1/3 (if you have 2 or more children) or 1/2 (if you have one child) of anything that is only in your name. This may not leave your spouse with sufficient assets to live out his or her life comfortably.
If you die without a will (intestate), Tennessee law applies the following hierarchy for inheritance:
- Spouse/children split (this includes all of your children, regardless of whether they are related to your current spouse)
- Spouse if no children
- Children if no spouse
- Parents if no children or spouse
- Siblings if none of the above
- Nephews and nieces if none of the above
- Grandparents if none of the above
- Aunts/uncles (as representatives of either or both sets of grandparents if deceased)
- Cousins (as representatives of any deceased aunts or uncles).
If this is not how you want your assets to pass at your death, then you definitely need a will.
Why Is A Will Important?
Wills allow you to specify who you want to inherit what. They can be as simple as leaving everything you have to one person of your choosing. You can be as general as you like or as specific as you like. It all depends on how much time you have. Be careful about creating wills based on an assumption that you will update your will later. If you plan that, make sure you do it as soon as practical — people often put off updating our wills for years and eventually forget about doing it all together.
If you have monetary assets that you want to split, it’s a good idea to discuss how best to do this with an attorney. We have seen wills that specified money by account, for example. But, the spouse inherited everything first and moved all the money around and all the funds had to be tracked back to the original account they came from to determine how much was left for each child when the spouse passed. This did not work well in the end.
If you have real estate that you own jointly with your spouse (specifically, tenancy in the entirety) your spouse will own the real estate in whole at your death. If, however, your spouse’s name is not on the real estate, under Tennessee law, if it is the primary residence, your spouse is entitled to live in the marital home until he or she passes (homestead rights), but will only have a 1/3 or 1/2 ownership should he or she sell it if you have children.
Generally, a will is a big relief to your loved ones. They have to deal with the loss of you, which is hard enough. To ask them to deal with your estate without knowing how you wanted things done creates confusion, guilt, anger, and frustration, and forces them to accept what Tennessee law dictates. Generally, these are not the feelings we want our passing to create in our loved ones.
Ready To Get Started With Your Will?
Almost everyone needs a will. If for nothing else, to name a person (the executor) to wrap up that person’s affairs at his or her death. If you are getting a will from Tidwell & Associates, we include a living will, power of attorney for health care, and general durable power of attorney at no extra charge. We call this a will package.
The power of attorney for health care ensures that your critical medical decisions are going to be made by whom you select if you are not competent to do so for any reason. The general durable power of attorney allows the person you select to take care of your business and financial affairs if you cannot. The living will ensures your desire as to whether to be kept alive artificially or not. These decisions belong to you so make sure you make the decision.
We will not only name who will tend to your affairs but also lay out how your estate is to be distributed and who you want to be the guardian of your minor children. Creating a will has many possible benefits but these are the most commonly sought out.
Discuss Your Questions About Wills With Us
If you face a true emergency and need a will, living will or either health care or business power of attorney, contact us as soon as possible. We can come to the home or medical facility and take care of preparing the document, witnessing the document(s) and notarizing them. Most importantly, we will work with the medical professionals to ensure that the client is able to execute documents and that this is noted in their medical records to protect your loved one’s wishes should there be a will contest. Since time is of the essence, if at all possible, we will get the documents ready and executed within 48-hours of contact with us. Note that due to the disruption to our practice with the need for immediate attention, we charge extra for this service.