In Tennessee, a person can leave his estate pretty much to whoever he wants.* Of course, when a person dies without a will, the State of Tennessee provides for how property is divided. See the blog article entitled, “When Aunt Becky Had No Will.”

If a person has no will, there are differences in how “children” are treated. Under Tenn. Code Ann. §31-1-101(1), for purposes of inheritance, a “child” is a natural born or adopted child. The statute specifically excludes a stepchild or foster child as a “child”.

You can see how unfortunate problems can occur when there is no will. A person can raise a stepchild or foster child from infancy and, unless the person makes provisions in their will, the stepchild or foster child will inherit nothing.

A properly drafted will enables a person to distribute their estate as they want, without depending on the survivors to “do what’s right”. A will can avoid family friction and hard feelings for years after a death.

If you would like to speak to James Wagner on this or any other matter, he may be reached at (865) 546-9321.


*The big exception is that you cannot completely disinherit a spouse by will. Tenn. Code Ann. §31-4-101 et seq.