At the Higgins Firm, our team of probate attorneys is asked a number of questions every day from potential clients. And like many lawyers, the response that we usually give to so many of those questions is, “It depends.” One of those many questions that we often hear is, “Is it true that the state of Tennessee can end up recovering from someone’s estate?” Again, we have to respond with, “It depends.”
There is only a limited set of circumstances in which the state can recover from a decedent’s estate. Under Tennessee law, the property of a person who dies is paid to the state only when there are no other living beneficiaries under a will or there are no other living relatives if someone dies without a will. Essentially, if you do not have a will and you do not have any close relatives, then the state will end up recovering from your estate. Tennessee state law does not have any intestate (dying without a will) provisions for those who are not related. Obviously, there are not many people who would ever voluntarily choose to leave their estate to the state’s treasury.
However, there is an obvious and easy way to prevent this possibility from ever happening, drafting a will. By drafting a will you are able to avoid the worst case scenario where the state would recover from your estate. In drafting a will, you are able to determine specifically who you want to recover your assets after you have passed. You are able to leave your assets to close friends or even a charity.