Inheritance Law for Step Children in Tennessee


As a step-child in Tennessee, you have few legal rights when it comes to inheriting property from a step-parent. While you can inherit property from a blood relative, you generally are not entitled to do so from a non-blood relative or parent. You should always consult with an attorney if you need legal advice about your rights to inherit under Tennessee law.


  • When your parent dies, you generally stand to inherit your parent's property, known as the estate. Your parent's estate gets handed down to any heirs that survive the deceased parent. However, if you have a step-parent, you are generally not an heir of that parent and do not stand to inherit from the estate. If, for example, your parent and step-parent are married and your step-parent dies, you do not generally inherit property from that step-parent, though you might if your biological or adoptive parent dies.


  • If your step-parent dies without leaving behind a last will in Tennessee, the state's intestate succession laws determine who gets to inherit the step-parent's property. According to Tennessee Code section 31-2-104, the surviving spouse of a decedent receives the entire estate if the decedent left behind no surviving children or lineal descendants, known as issue. If the decedent leaves behind issue, such as children, and a spouse, both the children and the spouse inherit a portion of the estate.


  • While a step-child does not stand to inherit from a step-parent if that parent dies without leaving behind a will in Tennessee, that doesn't mean step-children are completely left out of inheritances. A step-parent can choose to leave property to a step-child, or anyone else, if the parent creates a last will and testament. The parent has to create a will that complies with Tennessee requirements, such as making it in writing, signing it and getting two witnesses to sign it, but can choose any method to distribute property.

Half-Blood and Adoptive Children

  • While Tennessee law makes no specific provisions for step-children, or children of non-issue, the law does recognize half-children or children of half-blood. Tennessee Code section 31-2-107 states that relatives of half blood have the same rights to inherit as do those of whole blood. Further, if a parent legally adopts a step-child, that child becomes issue of the parent and stands to inherit as well.


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