Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Who Are Next Of Kin In Tennessee?

Under Tennessee law of descent and distribution the term “next of kin” means the persons most nearly related to the decedent by blood.  A decedent’s spouse and next of kin make up the group of people entitled to inherit from a decedent’s estate when a decedent dies without a will.  The order of inheritance for a spouse and next of kin is:

  1. Surviving spouse
  2. Children and descendants
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings
  5. Nieces and Nephews
  6. Grandparents
  7. Aunts and Uncles

What Do Next of Kin Inherit In Tennessee?

The share of the estate that next of kin in Tennessee inherit depends first on the survivors of the decedent.  An overview of Tennessee’s inheritance structure for an intestate estate is below:

Survivors of Decedent

Share of Intestate Estate

Spouse only

100% of estate to spouse

Children only

100% of estate to children equally

Spouse and descendants

Spouse and descendants equally share, but the spouse’s share may not be less than 1/3

Parents, no spouse or descendants

100% of estate to parents

One parent and siblings

-50% of the estate to the surviving parent

-50% of the estate split between the siblings

Siblings, no spouse, descendants, or parents

100% of estate to siblings

Nieces and Nephews, no siblings, spouse, descendants, or parents

Estate split equally by nieces and nephews

Grandparents only

Paternal and maternal grandparents share the estate equally

Aunts and uncles only

Paternal and maternal uncles and aunts share the estate equally

The information in the above chart can be found in the Tennessee Code, section 31-2-104.

Just because a next of kin is in line to inherit from a Tennessee decedent’s intestate estate does not guarantee that there will be any assets to inherit.  If the decedent died without any probate assets, then the intestacy statutes will not govern the disposition of decedent’s assets.  Instead, the titling of the assets will control, such as joint bank account titling and pay on death beneficiary designations.  See our Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.

Tennessee Next Of Kin And Granting of Letters of Administration

Status as next of kin in Tennessee grants priority to obtain letters of administration of the decedent’s intestate estate, provided that the surviving spouse does not apply for administration.  Section 30-1-106 of the Tennessee Code states:

When any person dies intestate in this state, administration shall be granted to the spouse of that person, if the spouse makes application for administration. For want of application for administration upon the part of the spouse, the administration shall be granted to the next of kin, if such next of kin apply for it. If neither the spouse nor next of kin make application for administration, then administration shall be granted to a creditor proving the decedent’s debt on oath before the probate court; provided, that when there is more than one next of kin, the probate court may decide which of the kin shall be entitled to the administration.

Tennessee’s 120-hour Survivorship Rule

In order for an heir to inherit from an intestate Tennessee estate, an heir must survive the decedent by 120 hours.  Tennessee Code 31-3-120.

Do Half-Relatives Inherit As Next Of Kin Under Tennessee Law?

Yes, a “half” relative inherits as if they were “whole” under Tennessee law and will inherit as next of kin just like a full relative.  Tennessee Code 31-2-107.

Do After-Born Heirs Inherit In Tennessee?

Yes, section 31-2-108 of the Tennessee Code provides that:

Relatives of the decedent conceived before the decedent’s death but born thereafter inherit as if they had been born in the lifetime of the decedent.

Determining whether you are next of kin under Tennessee law can be confusing.  A Tennessee probate lawyer can help you determine if you are next of kin, and any rights that come along with such status.