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A person’s family tree can have many branches that reach far and wide into the world. While some of their close family may live near them in Tennessee, they may have cousins, grandparents, and even more distant relations that spread across the rest of the country and even across oceans. Not everyone is close to their relatives, though, and not everyone wants to benefit their distant relations through the execution of their estate plan.

When a person makes an estate plan, they have the ability to identify who will be their beneficiaries and who may be excluded from taking from their end-of-life estate. If that person died without a plan, though, there would be no documentation to direct how and where their assets should be sent. When a person dies without a will, they are considered to have died intestate, and their estates will pass through the laws of intestacy.

Laws of intestacy set forth the order through which a person’s family members may become their heirs and beneficiaries. Generally, a person’s spouse and kids will be first considered under the laws of intestacy, and then their parents and then their siblings. Laws of intestacy look for direct descendants of the decedent, and if there are none, then up and down the branches of the family tree to located the nearest possible relatives.

While laws of intestacy do attempt to benefit the family members that decedents may be the closest to during their lifetimes, individuals have no control over where their end-of-life estates go if they do not have estate plans. Working with a trusted estate planning attorney can help a person avoid dying intestate and to protect their rights to control the disposition of their assets.