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Does Divorce Automatically Revoke the Life Insurance Beneficiary Status of the Ex-Spouse in Tennessee?

Posted on Sep 28 2014 4:18PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

One issue that comes up on occasion in Tennessee is whether a life insurance policy beneficiary designation is revoked automatically by a divorce.  The short answer to this question is no, a divorce does not revoke a life insurance beneficiary designation.  This is the default rule in Tennessee. 


Often life insurance companies will deny life insurance payouts to ex-spouses on the basis that they assert a divorce revokes the beneficiary designation.  That is not the rule in Tennessee.  In fact, there is a Tennessee Supreme Court case that has addressed this issue. See Bowers v. Bowers, 637 S.W.2d 456 (Tenn. 1982). 


Many life insurance companies that write policies in Tennessee are actually located outside of the State of Tennessee.  They often have non-Tennessee attorneys review life insurance policies and the beneficiary status when there is a divorce.  Some of these attorneys do not know the Tennessee law on this issue.  If you receive a denial of life insurance as an ex-spouse when you are still listed as a beneficiary on the life insurance policy, you should hire an attorney to assist you with obtaining these life insurance benefits.  Obviously, every fact situation is different, but the general rule in Tennessee is that the divorce does not revoke the life insurance beneficiary designation. 


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TAGS: Life Insurance Comments [0]

As a Beneficiary to a Tennessee Estate, Can I Hire An Attorney and Will the Estate Pay For My Attorney Fees?

Posted on Sep 21 2014 4:00PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

As a beneficiary, you can hire your own attorney to represent you and your interests as a beneficiary.  However, the vast majority of the time, you will be responsible to pay your attorneys legal fees.  However, there are circumstances where an attorney for a beneficiary can apply to the court to have attorney’s fees paid by the estate. 


Most often a beneficiary hires an attorney due to questions or concerns about the executor or executrix and the way the estate is being handled.  Often it can be very helpful in this circumstance to hire an attorney directly to advocate for you as a beneficiary in order to correct any problems or mishandling of the estate.  If you do not act, significant mistakes can be made and potentially estate assets can be compromised which ends up reducing the size of the estate that may be distributed to the beneficiary.  If the beneficiary’s attorney takes actions that directly benefits the estate, then the beneficiary’s attorneys may be awarded attorney’s fees by the court.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals has discussed this general rule as follows:


As a general rule, for attorneys' fees to be allowed out of an estate, the attorney must have been employed by the personal representative of the estate; however, there is an exception where an attorney's services have inured to the benefit of the estate and, in those cases, the court has discretion to allow fees.


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TAGS: Tennessee Probate Law Comments [0]

Can a Person Hide a Will From Beneficiaries in Tennessee?

Posted on Sep 14 2014 9:39PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

One issue that comes up in Tennessee estates on occasion is when beneficiaries or heirs believe a will has been concealed or hidden by somebody.  Sometimes there are suspicions about a person hiding or even destroying a will that does not benefit them.  The question is then asked, what can be done about this situation? 


Tennessee law clearly provides that destroying or concealing a will to prevent probate is against the law.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 39-14-131 provides that it is a felony to do this in Tennessee.  The entire statute is as follows: 


Any person who destroys or conceals the last will and testament of a testator, or any codicil thereto, with intent to prevent the probate thereof or defraud any devisee or legatee, commits a Class E felony.


As a result, what can you do if you are in this situation?  My recommendation is for you to hire an attorney in your area to send a letter to the suspected individual.  This letter should demand that a copy of the will be produced.  It should cite to this statute that makes it clear that it is illegal to hide or destroy a will.  Often this alone will cause the individual to produce the appropriate will as is required under Tennessee law.  Obviously, if this is unsuccessful then authorities may need to get involved to deal with this situation. 


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.
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TAGS: Wills, Tennessee Probate Law Comments [0]

Can a Non-Resident of Tennessee Serve as a Conservator of an Incompetent Person in Tennessee?

Posted on Sep 7 2014 10:08PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The answer to this question is yes, in most circumstances.  T.C.A. § 35-50-107 addresses this issue.  This statute provides in subsection (a)(2)(F) that:


(2)  The following nonresident persons or corporations may serve as fiduciaries, whether the appointment is by will, deed, trust agreement, court order or decree or otherwise:


(f)  Any person may serve as the conservator of the person of an incompetent person, regardless of the residence of the conservator;


As a result any resident or non-resident may serve as a conservator of an incompetent person even if the conservator does not live in Tennessee.  This statutes applies when there is an actual person who is serving as the conservator as opposed to a corporate entity of some kind (although there are rules that can allow this as well).  Further, there are specific requirements for non-resident conservators to comply with but with the help of a Tennessee attorney, these rules are not too difficult to follow.   


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.
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TAGS: Tennessee Conservatorship Comments [0]

Tennessee Court of Appeals Finds that Tennessee Estate Must be Opened to File Suit on Behalf of Deceased for Promissory Note Breach of Contract

Posted on Sep 1 2014 8:52PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals in the recent decision of Doris Guyear, Heir of Leroy Guyear, deceased v. Joey Blalock, et al No. M2012-01562-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 3697564 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) discussed efforts to collect on a promissory note that was owned by a deceased individual.  In this case, the owner of the promissory note died and his widow desired to collect on the promissory note as his heir.  She therefore filed a complaint in the name of his estate to collect on the promissory note.  The problem was, there was no estate opened.  The wife then amended the complaint on several occasions to try to fix the problem by being listed as the “next friend” of the deceased and ultimately as a “partner” of the deceased.  However, the plaintiff never actually opened up an estate for her husband in order to properly proceed with the lawsuit to enforce the promissory note that her husband owned.


As a result, the question addressed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals was whether the wife could bring a suit for the promissory note of her deceased husband without formally opening up an estate.  Ultimately, the Tennessee Court of Appeals found that the spouse could not bring this cause of action for breach of contract for the promissory note in her individual capacity or in the capacities that she attempted.  Rather, the spouse was required to open up an estate in order to properly bring this lawsuit for breach of contract.  The Court specifically stated as follows:


The proper way to establish the respective rights of Leroy Guyear's heirs to his property would have been through the administration of his estate. If Doris Guyear had been appointed as the administrator, then she would have had the right, and perhaps even the duty, to sue on behalf of his estate in order to collect any debts that were owed to her late husband. See, State v. Anderson, 84 Tenn. 321, 338 (1886); Carr v. Lowe's Executor, 54 Tenn. 84, 90 (1871); State v. Fulton, 49 S.W. 297, 301. The trial judge alerted Ms. Guyear to the necessity of opening the estate and becoming its administrator if she wished to bring suit in its name, but she chose not to do that for whatever reason, and rather to amend her complaint by bringing it in her own name and as her late husband's “next friend.”

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TAGS: Executor/Executrix, Tennessee Probate Law Comments [0]

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
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com