Tennessee Inheritance Laws


Have you ever wondered how a distant relative was actually related to you?

The table below is called the Table of Consanguinity, which shows the degree of relationship you have with someone.

This chart is actually very important when it comes to inheritance laws. Tennessee inheritance laws dictate that if someone dies intestate (dying without a will), then the decedent’s property would be distributed to the living heirs pursuant to this chart starting with the closest living relatives and moving outward.

Dying without a Will in Tennessee

Table of Consanguinity

Table of Consanguinity

If a person dies without a will in Tennessee, then the estate is distributed as follows:

  • If there is a Surviving Spouse
    • To the surviving spouse entirely, if no children;
    • If surviving children, then either one-third (1/3) to surviving spouse or a child’s share, whichever is greater, with the children receiving the remainder
  • If there is no Surviving Spouse—now we follow the table:
    • First, down the children’s line.
    • If no surviving children or grandchildren etc. then to the parents.
    • If no one surviving in the parent’s line, then move to the grandparent’s line.

Getting to the Grandparents line causes issues, since individuals have paternal grandparents and maternal grandparents. Therefore, Tennessee inheritance law allows the two sides to inherit equally.

The exact language of the statute is:

If there is no surviving issue, parent, or issue of a parent, but the decedent is survived by one or more grandparents or issue of grandparents, half of the estate passes to the paternal grandparents if both survive, or to the surviving paternal grandparent or to the issue of the paternal grandparents if both are deceased, the issue taking equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent, but if of unequal degree those of more remote degree take by representation; and the other half passes to the maternal relatives in the same manner; but if there is no surviving grandparent or issue of grandparent on either the paternal or maternal side, the entire estate passes to the relatives on the other side in the same manner as the half.- Tenn. Code Ann. § 31-2-104 (b)(4)  (2014)

If no surviving heirs in the grandparent’s line, then the property escheats to the State of Tennessee, which means the State inherits your property. Therefore, it is critically important for each individual to have a will, especially if there is a family dynamic that makes you

(1) Not want your property to be distributed according to the Table of Consanguinity, or

(2) Not want your property to go to the State

So contact us to schedule an estate planning consultation today!