Most estate planning clients are either retired, elderly folks who are thinking about how to best leave their assets to their adult children and grandchildren, or are middle aged married couples making sure they have the right plan in place in case they pass away unexpectedly and leave minor children behind. Naming a guardian for the children and a trustee to administer a trust allows them to make those decisions, instead of a judge.
The age group least likely to have a will or estate plan in place? Millennials. And that makes sense. After all, young people have on average longer to live, may not yet have children, and fewer assets to worry about distributing. In fact, though, millennials need a regularly reviewed estate plan just as much if not more than those in other age groups. That’s because millennials are more likely than older generations to have unconventional family situations. They are more likely, for example, to be in committed relationships, including parenting relationships, without the legal protections afforded to married couples.
Under Tennessee law, if you pass away without a will, your individually held assets do not pass to your significant other unless you are married.
Take a hypothetical couple, Sam and Rebecca, for example. They are in their late 20s, have good jobs, and are in a loving, serious, longstanding relationship. They share expenses and live together in a nice house Sam inherited from his mother. But they don’t want kids and see no reason to get married. Sam is estranged from his father, who left when Sam was young.
If Sam passes away suddenly, and leaves no will, none of Sam’s assets will be inherited by Rebecca. In fact, Sam’s estate would pass to his father, regardless of the poor state of their relationship. The father will be under no obligation to care for Rebecca, or to allow her to live in the house, even if that is what Sam clearly would have wanted. If they were married, Rebecca would be entitled to inherit Sam’s entire estate. Without being married, only a will can or other estate planning procedure can make sure that she receives the home and the rest of his estate.
Even if Sam had a close brother or sister, that sibling would not receive any of Sam’s estate. Assets of unmarried decedents who reside in Tennessee, have no children, and pass away without a will would pass to surviving parents first, before siblings. For better or for worse, the law does not ask about the kind of relationship such a person had with their parent.
In addition, proper estate planning by an unmarried person can ensure that if they are incapacitated, the person they choose is authorized to act on their behalf in making financial or health care decisions.
A Tennessee wills attorney can help you anticipate issues, and determine how your will or trust should handle situations specific to your age group and important relationships, to best reflect your wishes for your estate.
Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.