What is Exempt Property in a Tennessee Estate for a Surviving Spouse or Minor Children?

Posted on Apr 27 2014 10:44PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  T.C.A. § 30-2-101 provides that a surviving spouse of a person who died without a will (intestate decedent) or a surviving spouse who elects against their spouse’s will (this is called an elective share under T.C.A. § 31-4-101) is entitled to receive certain exempt property from the estate.  Specifically, the surviving spouse can receive exempt property having a fair market value that does not exceed $50,000.00 as stated in T.C.A. § 30-2-101 as follows:


(a) The surviving spouse of an intestate decedent, or a spouse who elects against a decedent's will, is entitled to receive from the decedent's estate the following exempt property having a fair-market value (in excess of any indebtedness and other amounts secured by any security interests in the property) that does not exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000):

(1) Tangible personal property normally located in, or used in or about, the principal residence of the decedent and not used primarily in a trade or business or for investment purposes, and

(2) A motor vehicle or vehicles not used primarily in a trade or business. If there is no surviving spouse, the decedent's unmarried minor children are entitled as tenants in common only to exempt property as described in subdivision (a)(1). Rights to this exempt property are in addition to any benefit or share passing to the surviving spouse or unmarried minor children by intestate succession, elective share, homestead or year's support allowance.


This exempt property is in addition to other benefits (including the elective share, homestead or year’s support allowance) the surviving spouse or minor child would receive as specifically stated in subsection (a)(2).  If there is no surviving spouse then unmarried minor children are entitled to own the exempt property as tenants in common with each other.  Keep in mind that exempt property does not include things that are used mainly in a business or for investment purposes.


The provision for exempt property is very important to consider when dealing with an elective share situation or where a spouse dies without a will (intestate).  This can be a significant benefit in the favor of the surviving spouse or certain minor children.  Consult with an experienced Tennessee probate attorney to make any decisions about how to handle an elective share situation as well as decisions about exempt property.


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TAGS: Intestate, Exempt Property, Elective Share, Minor Children
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com