By Jedidiah McKeehan

I have no idea what the numbers would come out to, but it is fair to say that most people do not have wills. As most people know, the will is the document that says who gets what after they die.

However, since most people die without a will, Tennessee law states that your possessions past, “intestate.” The word intestate simply means that you died without a will, but Tennessee law dictates who gets what, and in what order possession are passed in Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) section 31-2-104.

Contrary to popular belief, the surviving spouse does not always inherit everything from someone who dies. If the person who died (the deceased) had no children, then yes, the spouse gets everything. However, if the deceased had children, then they do not.

If the deceased had one child, then the spouse gets half, and the child gets half. If the deceased had two children, then the spouse and the children each get one-third. If the deceased had more than two children, the spouse gets one-third, and the children equally split the rest, regardless of the number of children. The spouse never gets less than one-third of the deceased’s estate.

If one of the deceased’s children has already died, then the grandchildren inherit the child’s portion of the estate. So, if a child who was supposed to get one-third dies and has two children, they will each inherit one-sixth.

If the deceased dies with no spouse, and no children, then his parents shall inherit the entirety of his estate. If the deceased dies with no spouse, no children, and no living parents, then the deceased’s siblings inherit his estate. Similar to before, if a sibling has died, then the sibling’s children will inherit the sibling’s share of estate.

In the unlikely event that the deceased dies with no spouse, no children, no parents, and no siblings, then the deceased’s grandparents will inherit his estate with one-half going to his paternal grandparents, and one-half going to his maternal grandparents.

In the extremely unlikely even that none of the above people are alive at the time of the deceased’s passing, then pursuant to TCA 31-2-110, the decedent’s belongs shall pass “escheat,” which means that the state of Tennessee will inherit the deceased possessions.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.