Top Three Reasons Why You Need a Will in Tennessee.

Posted on Apr 23 2013 10:26PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Reason Number Three - To try to reduce the likelihood for disagreements and disputes among family members, friends and potential beneficiaries/heirs after your death.


An individual's death is an extremely stressful, emotional, and difficult time for family members and friends of the deceased.  There are often underlying relationship problems of various kinds that exist among family members and friends of the deceased.  Any pre-existing problems are often exacerbated and even made worse by the stress and difficulty of dealing with the death of a loved one. 


A properly drafted and executed will in Tennessee gives you the best opportunity to clearly lay out your intentions to avoid significant disputes over your assets and money.  Too many deaths result in family members fighting.  These disputes are not just about money but can also be about family heirlooms or other items that have no real material value, but are converted into highly valued emotional objects that family and friends focus on in their disputes.  A will is a great tool you can use to try to reduce or even eliminate these disputes because it leaves less wiggle room for family members and friends to disagree about.


Reason Number Two - To decide who will be the legal guardian for your children after your death.


A very important component of a will is that you can select who you desire to be the guardian of your children.  If you have minor children at the time you die, you can designated in your will who you desire to be the guardian for your children until they reach the age of majority (18 years of age in Tennessee).  This is one of the most important decisions you can ever make because the guardians are the individuals who will raise your children after you are gone.


If you do not have any written statement of your intentions as to who you want to be the guardian of your children, then disputes can arise over who will be their guardians.  As a result, an individual that you may not have intended or wanted to be the guardian of your children could be successful in court to become the guardian.  Ultimately, if you do not make your intentions known, the court will make this decision for you without your input.  As a result, it is very important to clearly identify in your will your express intention of who should be the guardian of your children after your death.


Reason Number One - To decide where your assets and money go after your death.


If you do not make a will and provide clear instructions on where you assets and money will go after death, the State of Tennessee will decide for you.  Ultimately, it is your right to declare who obtains your assets and money after your death.  However, if you do not exercise this right, then you are considered to have died “intestate” and therefore the State of Tennessee, by the statutes on the books, will decide who gets your assets and money after your death.  The decisions made by the State of Tennessee legislature in drafting how assets are to be distributed in this situation are often not the same decisions that would have made if you had the chance.


A lot of times dying without a will in Tennessee causes unintended consequences.  For instance, if you are survived by a spouse and a child, the child owns 50% of your assets and property.  Your spouse will likely hold these assets in trust until such time as the child reaches the age of majority (18 years old).  Depending on the situation this can be a burden on the spouse as the child can then demand his or her portion of the estate.  Most people decide instead to leave all their assets and money to their spouse and the spouse will take care of the minor child until the age of majority.  Unique family situations could cause individuals to make other decisions, but that is the purpose of the will and is why every person should execute a will in Tennessee to make the right decisions for them on how their estate should be handled.


Another important component of a will can be to establish a trust for minor children until they reach a certain age so they do not receive a lump sum of money at the age of 18.  You can designate in your will to have a trust set up until your children reach a certain age, perhaps 25 or 30 years old.  Until they reach that age the trustee (that you name in your will and often is the same person you designate as a legal guardian for your children) will govern distribution of the money for the needs of the child.  However, the trustee will not simply write them a check for everything the child wants, their role is to carefully provide funds from the trust on an “as needed” basis for worthwhile purchases.  When the trust terminates, at whatever age you designate, the money is then distributed to the child in lump sum (presumably at an age where the child can wisely handle a lump sum of money).  This prevents an 18 year old child from getting access to a lump sum of cash at a young age. 


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.

TAGS: Intestate, Wills, Probate Assets, Minor Children, Tennessee Probate Law
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com