What is a will and what happens if I pass away without one in Tennessee?

The most common and well-known estate-planning instrument is the will. So what is a will, you ask? A will is an individual’s written directions for transferring his or her property upon death. A will must be executed as required by law to be valid. Everyone should have a will regardless of the value of your assets. If you die without a will you are said to die “intestate” and your assets will pass according to Tennessee intestacy law. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s intestate distribution scheme is typically more expensive to administer and rarely distributes your property in the manner you would have chosen. You can read more about this here:  Will your property go to Tennessee if you don’t have a will? 

What is a “simple will”?

A simple will is commonly understood to be a will that contains no tax or trust-planning provisions. Don’t be fooled by the designation of “simple” because numerous considerations go into drafting all wills regardless of the complexity. A common example of a simple will is an “I love you will” which leaves everything to your spouse, if surviving; otherwise, to your children in equal shares. Is a simple will right for you and your family? A reputable attorney whose practice focuses on estate planning can help you with this determination.

What is an Executor Appointment?

The executor is the person you appoint to be in charge immediately after you die to ensure your will is carried out according to your wishes. Because every estate and every family is unique, your decision of choosing an executor should involve discussion and consideration of many factors, including the size of your estate, the complexity of your financial affairs and how well family members get along. The best executors are people who are careful, patient, unquestionably honest, well-organized, get along well with other people and committed to doing a good job. An executor does not need to be a financial or legal expert because in most cases the executor will seek professional assistance when administering an estate. An executor initiates the probate of the will, collects the assets of the estate, cleans out and sells the house if necessary, pays all debts, taxes and administration expenses of the estate, and ultimately distributes your property as directed in your will. Sometimes the executor distributes estate property directly to a beneficiary named in the will. Other times the executor distributes the beneficiary’s inheritance to a trustee to hold and manage on the beneficiary’s behalf (as opposed to giving the property directly to the beneficiary). The executor’s job is usually finished within 6-12 months after the death has occurred. It is usually best to name just one executor, but in certain instances there may be compelling reasons to name co-executors. It is always best to name a backup in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.

Guardianship and Trustee Appointment

If you have minor children, you’ll want to plan who will care for your children should both parents die. For young couples, selecting the guardian of their minor children is the most important decision they need to make in their wills. An effective estate plan for those with young children should also nominate a trustee to supervise and manage your children’s inheritances until your children reach an age where they are mature and responsible enough to manage their inheritance themselves.