Disclosure: I am not an attorney, nor am I licensed to offer legal advice. But I can give some common-sense thoughts. Dying without a will is called INTESTACY. In Tennessee, if you die without a will, your assets will go to your closest relatives. However, with a will, there needs to be some other documents in place.
These other documents are probably the most important for you, and they are DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE AND FINANCIAL DECISIONS. Let’s say you’re a young single professional living here in Nashville…and you’re saying:
“Why do I need a will?”
You’re healthy one minute, and an hour later, you’re in the emergency room in critical condition due to accident or illness. You are unable to make any decisions whatsoever. Now what do you do? Oh yeah, you’re sedated…or even worse, in a coma. What does the ER doctor do?
Start to see the need for a will? This applies to married couples as well…if you’re incapacitated, have you given some express permission to make decisions on your behalf?
Let’s assume you’re a newly married couple. The house is in in his name ONLY…but the mortgage is being paid by both the husband and wife. What happens if he dies? Does the surviving spouse have legal to the house? That is for the court to decide!
Probate defined is “the court process by which a will is proved valid or invalid. No will cause your assets to go through this process regardless. Probate court can be your friend…and your enemy. Assets that are duly titled such as homes in both names, investment accounts titled either jointly, or “transfer on death” will smoothly flow through probate.
Assets that have a beneficiary designation, such as retirement accounts (IRA, 401(k), profit sharing) and life insurance plans bypass probate and go directly to the named beneficiary.
Blended families, where second marriages with children are involved can be handled easily with properly executed wills. Especially where provisions need to be made for the children.
A scenario that I am seeing increasingly is the need for couples of the same sex that are married and own property together. Wills are mandatory for each person to protect the surviving partner. Especially if their family dynamics are challenging.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of celebrities dying without wills, and the nightmares that followed: Elvis, Conway Twitty, and most recently Prince.
Essential point: get one in place ASAP! Legal Zoom or an attorney that specializes in wills, trusts, estates.