Thinking about a time when your family will have to be without you may be hard, but leaving them without a blueprint for your estate can pile on unnecessary stress.

If you don’t have a plan in place, you’re not alone. Only 44% of people in the United States have an outline for their estate. With no clear framework, the state is left to divvy up your assets based on Tennessee law.

Spouse

Your spouse is generally first in line to inherit assets. If there are no children, then they could get the lion’s share. If there are children, they will likely share the estate evenly, saving for the fact your spouse can’t get less than 1/3 of the total amount.

Children

The share that could go to your children depends on how many are in the picture, and what their legal relationship was to you:

  • Adopted children: Children you have adopted will inherit a portion of your estate just as if they were your natural-born kids.
  • Foster children and stepchildren: If your children aren’t yours by birth, and were never officially adopted, then they will not automatically get part of your estate.
  • Grandchildren: Your estate will only trickle down to your grandkids if their parents, your children, are not alive to receive their share.

Parents

If you don’t have a spouse or children in line for an inheritance, then your parents may be next in line. They will get everything you leave behind if they’re the only ones on the list.

Siblings

Siblings are usually up next with the previous lines exhausted, even when there is only one shared parent. Courts can treat half siblings the same as full siblings.

Other circumstances

Once you’re past these relatives, things can get a little more confusing. While your property could eventually be forfeit to the state due to a lack of heirs, there are still options to consider. Nieces and nephews or aunts and uncles may all be in line to collect.

Many other circumstances could affect where your money goes, but it’s often best to leave behind guidance instead of leaving it in the hands of the state. Having an estate plan in place can make sure your assets take care of your family in the way you see fit.