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Determination of Rightful Heirs

Estate Planning Lawyers Serving Nashville and Beyond

Determining the rightful heirs to a deceased person’s estate can either be straightforward or require more research and discovery. Having a properly executed will makes the process much simpler. However, when an individual dies without a will, or when a will is later invalidated, determining who is entitled to inherit his or her property becomes more complicated. The Nashville estate planning attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC are experienced in helping determine who may be the rightful heirs to an estate. We are one of the most technologically advanced firms in Tennessee, and we can draw on expansive resources to advance the interests of our clients. Our firm can assist individuals in determining whether an estate’s heirs are recognizable, as well as guiding those who are meant to be beneficiaries in protecting their rights.

Determining the Rightful Heirs of an Estate

When a person has passed away after executing a valid will, the people named in the instrument are the heirs of the estate, known in this context as beneficiaries. However, when a will is successfully contested and deemed invalid, in the absence of a prior valid will, or if the deceased person fails to prepare a will at all, determining the heirs falls under state law.

Intestate succession laws in Tennessee dictate which heirs receive which proportion of an estate, based on who is alive at the time of an individual’s death. Spouses inherit all intestate property if there is no living descendant at the time of the death. The descendants include children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If both a spouse and descendants are alive, they share in the division of intestate property equally, but a spouse’s share cannot be less than one third. If there are children but no spouse, the children inherit the property evenly, with differing rules regarding foster and stepchildren, as well as those born posthumously or outside the marriage.

If there is no surviving spouse or child, an estate passes to the parents, followed by any siblings if the parents pre-decease the individual. If these relatives are also deceased or nonexistent, intestate succession laws move on to other, more removed family members in order to identify the proper heirs. This process may require extensive investigations, notice to potential heirs, and sometimes litigation if there are competing claims to the estate. If no heirs exist, an estate escheats to the state, meaning property gets turned over to the state. This is a very rare occurrence, however, since usually at least one heir is discovered during probate.

Making an accurate determination of the rightful heirs is important in ensuring that any inheritance is not challenged later, which can lead to lengthy and costly legal proceedings. Consulting a knowledgeable probate attorney is helpful in avoiding future court battles.

Consult a Nashville Attorney for Your Estate Planning Needs

Making sure the correct heirs inherit property left behind by an invalidated will, or when an individual dies intestate, can be a time-consuming and detailed process. The Nashville estate planning lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC are dedicated to making sure rightful claims are pursued and proper protections are taken throughout the proceedings. Our probate attorneys also represent people in Franklin, Hermitage, Cool Springs, and West Meade, among other communities throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties. Call us at 615-800-7096 or contact us online to set up an appointment.