If my father recently died and didn’t have a Will but he was married, what happens to his belongings including his house?

His wife is not my mother.

Asked on August 1, 2014 under Estate Planning, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Your  father's spouse (his wife) and his descendents (e.g children and grandchildren, if any) will share in the estate (your father's property), subject to the following:

1) Anything owed jointly between your father and his wife (e.g. a joint bank account; property owned jointly) becomes hers as the surviving joint owner--it doesn't pass through intestate succession (the rules for who gets what, when there is no will).

2) The wife cannot get less than 1/3, no matter how many descendents there are, of the intestate estate (in addition to any joint property that becomes hers).

3) If there is a life insurance policy with named beneficiaries, it goes to the beneficiaries.

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