When a loved one passes away, it can be a challenging and emotional time for the family left behind. Amidst the grief and mourning, practical matters must be addressed, and one significant concern is often the fate of the deceased's home. In Tennessee, like in many other states, the fate of a house upon death depends on various factors, including the presence of a will, the type of ownership, and the state's specific laws. In this blog, we'll explore what typically happens to a house in Tennessee when someone passes away.
When someone passes away without a valid will, they are said to have died "intestate." In such cases, Tennessee's intestate succession laws come into play to determine how the deceased person's property, including their house, will be distributed. The rules for intestate succession in Tennessee are based on blood relationships, and they prioritize the deceased person's surviving family members.
If the deceased person was married and had no children or surviving parents, their surviving spouse typically inherits the entire house. If the deceased had a spouse and children, the surviving spouse usually inherits a portion of the house, and the children inherit the remainder. If the deceased had no spouse or children but had surviving parents, the parents would inherit the house. If there are no immediate family members, the house may pass to more distant relatives, such as siblings, grandparents, aunts, or uncles, depending on the specific circumstances.
Many homeowners in Tennessee choose to own their property jointly with another person, often a spouse or a family member. Joint ownership can take two primary forms: joint tenancy with right of survivorship and tenancy by the entirety.
In a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, when one of the joint owners passes away, their share of the property automatically passes to the surviving joint owner(s). This means that if a married couple owns a house as joint tenants with right of survivorship, and one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will become the sole owner of the house.
Tenancy by the entirety is a specific form of joint ownership available only to married couples. Similar to joint tenancy with right of survivorship, when one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the sole owner of the house.
Having a valid will
Having a valid will can provide clarity and control over what happens to your house after your death. If you create a will in Tennessee, you can specify who you want to inherit your property, including your house, and in what proportions. You can leave your house to family members, friends, charities, or anyone you choose, as long as your will meets the legal requirements of the state.
It's important to note that if you have outstanding debts or mortgages on your house, those obligations will need to be settled from your estate before the property is distributed to your heirs or beneficiaries. Your will can also specify how these debts should be handled.
Whether there is a will or not, the estate of the deceased person typically goes through the probate process in Tennessee. Probate is the legal process of settling the deceased person's debts, distributing their assets, and ensuring that their wishes (if expressed in a will) are carried out.
During probate, the court will review the will, if one exists, and oversee the distribution of the deceased person's assets, including their house. If there is no will, the court will rely on intestate succession laws to determine how the property should be distributed.
The probate process can be time-consuming and costly, so many individuals choose to take steps to avoid it, such as creating a revocable living trust, which allows for the seamless transfer of assets, including the house, to beneficiaries without going through probate.
SECURE YOUR FAMILY'S FUTURE WITH ROCHFORD LAW
To navigate this complex terrain and make informed decisions tailored to your unique circumstances, it's crucial to seek professional guidance. At Rochford Law, we specialize in estate planning and probate matters, offering you the expertise and support you need during these challenging times.
Contact us today and take the first step towards a well-planned and secure estate.