Tennessee Statute of Limitations: Personal Injury Lawsuit

Although injuries from a car wreck or fall happen in flash, it can take the injured some time to consult with an attorney about a lawsuit. In Tennessee it is of utmost importance to move quickly in this direction. Why is filing a lawsuit soon after injury occurs important? It is important because Tennessee state law places a statute of limitations on filing personal injury lawsuits and collecting on judgments: TN Code § 28-3-104

The statute of limitations on filing your personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee sets the timer for one year after the injury-causing incident. As a result of this, it is important for the injured party to shake off the shock and contact a personal injury lawyer right away, like the attorneys of McKeehan Law Group.

Where Do Limitations Apply, & What Are the Exceptions?

Tennessee’s Statute of Limitations apply to car wrecks and product liability cases, though its application is not limited to these. If you fail to meet the one-year deadline for filing your lawsuit, the courts will reject your claim by declaring it untimely.

Some exceptions to the Tennessee Statute of Limitations are outlined below:

Discovery Rule

Some injuries are not apparent immediately after an accident, and in those cases you might get an extension. The rule governing these cases is the “discovery rule”. The definition of the discovery rule is an exception rule. It is based on when the injured party “knows or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence should know that an injury has been sustained”. For example, claims against a manufacturer for a defective medical device fall under this rule. In these cases, the injury from a defective product doesn't immediately happen. And you won't realize your device is defective until well after the medical procedure that implanted it. The discovery rule could allow the statute of limitations apply from the discovery date of injury, rather than the date of the incident. 

Tolling or Delayed Judgment for Victims of an Accident

The court may declare an injured party unable to represent themselves. In these cases, the injured is usually a minor or mentally impaired. A minor who sustains injury can file a lawsuit for one year after their 18th birthday. Those deemed mentally impaired by the court may delay filing a lawsuit until they are judged to no longer suffer impairment. However, this judgement can be tricky, and you should consult an attorney who can guide you through the process.

Damage to Property

This Tennessee Statute of Limitations applies only to personal injury from negligence or direct fault. And it does not apply to claims for property damage. The statute to file for compensation related to property damage is three years from the date of the incident. These claims would include specific costs associated with damage to your property. Damages include both real property damage (to home or land, for example) and personal property (i.e., vehicle damage). Learn more about this part of Tennessee law, which is separate from the personal injury rules, at Tennessee Code section 28-3-105.

Contact a Knoxville Personal Injury Attorney

The personal injury lawyers with McKeehan Law Group are available to help you navigate these difficult situations. Contact us online today or call (865) 294-8008.

A gavel and books

Teen Tiger Attack Survivor Files Lawsuit

Even though you work every day among big cats in a place like Tiger Haven in Roane County, Tennessee, you don't think much about the danger they can pose. A teenager who lived and worked at the facility paid a huge price after slipping and falling into the side of the enclosure where tiger Eyeore lives. In the above video, GMA tells the story.

Her hand slipped through the space in the fence, giving the tiger an opportunity to grab hold of it. This resulted in serious injuries that required multiple surgeries, and will likely cause issues with the arm's use for the rest of her life.

Jed McKeehan is representing the young lady in proceedings, as things develop. This potential personal injury case will determine if negligence can be blamed for the fall and the injuries that occurred as a result.

If you've had an accident that was caused by negligence on the part of a business owner or organization, you might also have a case. Give the lawyers at McKeehan Law Group a call for a free consultation: (865) 294-8008.

Gavel on wood table

You Won Your Lawsuit! Now What?

In some states, after the dust settles on your personal injury lawsuit, and you find yourself getting a favorable outcome, what happens? I mean, you won! The complicated part is over, right? In the majority of cases, you may face more challenges before you collect the money awarded to you. Speaking of money, after winning your lawsuit the court will issue a judgment that contains the amount the defendant owes you. At that point, the defendant must pay, or they choose to appeal the verdict. If the former happens, you still find yourself working hard to get that payment. Let’s break it all down.

Appealing the Verdict

A defendant has the right to appeal any judgment against them, and in many cases, the losing party will do just that. In Tennessee, they must file an appeal with the courts in 10 to 30 days. If the appeal is granted, a different judge will hear the case in court. Any judgment against them levied by the original judge will be suspended from collection through the appeals process.

Who pays you for your personal injury case? You can go after insurance coverage with a claim, or you can go after personal assets. You can also file a claim with your own insurance company that covers uninsured or under-insured drivers.

Collecting a Judgment in Tennessee

Before you decide to file a lawsuit from which you hope to be awarded a judgment by the court, you should investigate the ability to pay by the person against whom you plan to file. It will do no good to sure a person who lives paycheck to paycheck with no assets or savings for millions or even thousands of dollars because they may never be able to pay.

However, if you go forward with your lawsuit and win in court, getting payment from the defendant may or may not be complicated. Really, it falls to the plaintiff to collect the payment from the defendant because the court’s role basically ends once the judgment is entered. Perhaps the defendant, or more likely their insurance company, is fully ready and able to do so. More often, it can take a little work to collect.

It’s important to note, if the defendant has a job, he or she is required to pay the judgment. However, sometimes getting them to meet that requirement can be a challenge. In those cases, you have several options in the state of Tennessee:

Wage Garnishment

If you can discover the defendant's employer, you should file their employment information with the court. In most cases, the court will rule that they must pay you up to 25% of their wages each paycheck until their debt is paid. The courts forward the money to you from payments collected automatically from their paychecks. The wage garnishment stays in effect as long as they keep that job.

Bank Levy

If you know where the defendant has money in a bank account, you can also file this information with the court. The court in turn will notify the defendant’s bank of the debt, and it will send the amount owed to the court who will distribute it to you. This option is best for lower-end judgments of a few thousand dollars.

Property Liens

Another option if the defendant doesn’t pay their debt is to take your judgment from the court and file it with the register of deeds for your county. With this paperwork on file, the law requires the defendant to settle the judgment from any property they sell. Alternatively, you can file a judgment lien to obtain a writ of execution. The defendant must sell their property to satisfy the judgment, though there are many exceptions to property covered by this law. In some states, placing an attachment on vehicles that can be sold to satisfy the judgment is an option. However, in Tennessee, the option of a property lien only applies to real property and not automobiles or other types of property.

Can They Avoid Paying?

If the defendant has filed for bankruptcy or is otherwise a person without assets, you can’t collect. This goes back to one of my early points. If you have a non-collectible defendant, you probably shouldn’t file a lawsuit in the first place. So do your research before taking that step.

Important Information About Your Judgment 

After a judge rules in your favor and requires payment of a judgment by the defendant, you don’t have forever to collect. You must collect this debt within ten years of a judgment entered by the court. Payment can take from several months to several years to collect, and interest due to you on the original amount can accrue over time.

What obligations do you have for the money collected in the lawsuit’s judgment? Taxes must be paid out of most judgments, though there are exceptions. You need not pay taxes on judgments covering physical injury costs and any pain, suffering, and emotional distress resulting from this injury. In almost all other cases, you must pay taxes, including lost wages, emotional distress without physical injury, and punitive damages. There are also many ways to reduce the taxes owed. Because navigating tax requirements can get really complicated, you should seek help from a professional.

Hiring an Attorney with Experience 

These guidelines are based on Tennessee law, but those laws can vary from state to state. To understand the laws that apply to your situation it is a great idea to get expert advice and guidance. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you from filing to collecting a judgment is a valuable investment. Knoxville Attorney, Jed McKeehan is available to help you navigate through the courts and laws in Tennessee. If you need help (or think you might need help soon), call Jed today at (865) 294-8008.


A woman's hand in a bandage

7 Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

In the state of Tennessee, like all other areas of the country, a person can file a lawsuit after suffering a personal injury against any party thought to be at fault. There are specific steps one follows to file the suit, but first and foremost you must understand the legal definition of a personal injury. According to The Free Dictionary, this is its definition:

Personal Injury: Any violation of an individual's right, other than his or her rights in the property. The term personal injury is not confined to physical injuries, although negligence cases usually do involve bodily injuries.”

This definition broadens the scope to include the violation of an individual’s rights, instead of confining it to a physical manifestation of injury. However, most personal injury lawsuits are filed as a result of physical injury, so that is where this post will focus. Click here to learn more about what is considered a personal injury. 

How To File Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

This context leads the steps for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee:

Step 1: File a report of your accident with law enforcement, even if it happens on private property or in a business. After an injury in a car accident, this is an obvious step. Remember you can help your case by filing after any accident where an injury occurs. You don’t need to call 911 to get an emergency response in all cases, but filing a report could be helpful in the long run.

Step 2: Take photos and videos of the scene for court. If able, document the circumstances and aftermath of your accident with photos or video at the scene. If you are unable at the time to do this, you should gather whatever evidence is left to prove fault or negligence as soon as possible. Again, visual evidence is the most valuable, and many times in this world of security and traffic cameras, there is a video available of the incident itself. Also, you should secure copies of any police reports or witness statements.

Step 3: Obtain medical attention for your injury. If you plan to file a lawsuit as a result of physical injury, you need a timely medical evaluation and report to prove it.

Step 4: Get an attorney involved on your side as soon as possible. An attorney will first work with you to determine if you have a valid personal injury claim. If you determine this is the case, he can guide you through actually writing and filing your claim to most likely get results. Jed McKeehan is an attorney in Knoxville who can help you with your personal injury lawsuit.

Step 5: Determine your claim amount. Working with your personal injury lawyer, you compose a demand letter that contains the compensation sought for your personal injury. Usually, your demand letter sets a place to start negotiations by stating an amount a lot higher than the amount with which you’d be satisfied. A common practice is to state an amount of 75% to 100% higher than you need and work from there.  In your demand letter be sure to include a summary of the strongest factors of your claim to encourage negotiation. Don’t forget to include the attorney fees you’re likely to incur as part of any settlement amount. Those bills can add up quickly.

In this video, you’ll learn about Punitive Damages. Jed explains what they are and what amount to expect: 

Step 6: Work it out with insurance, if you can. Your attorney and the defendant’s insurance adjuster work together to find a settlement of the claim. After your attorney has the evidence and determines the validity of your case, it's time to contact the defendant’s insurance company. In most cases, your attorney works on your behalf with the insurance adjuster to reach a compromise for compensation for your accident. Caution: This negotiation often takes months to complete. If a settlement cannot be reached, it is at this point your claim becomes a lawsuit and heads to court.

Step 7: File your lawsuit in court. When all efforts to settle with the defendant and the insurance company fail, you have no other option. You are forced to file a lawsuit. The most important factor in Tennessee is one of timing. Tennessee requires you to file a lawsuit in the calendar year following the incident that caused the injury.

This is in accordance with the Tennessee Code 28-3-104 (find full code here), which can be partially summarized to suit this circumstance as a lawsuit must be filed within one year after the personal injury occurred in the following actions: 

  • Libel
  • Personal injury
  • False imprisonment
  • Malicious prosecution 
  • Marriage vow breaches

Pending criminal prosecution as related to the injury causes an exception to this law. Hiring an attorney who specializes in personal injury law can help you navigate this timeline. This is particularly important when negotiating with an insurance company to avoid them pushing you past the filing deadline.

In this video, McKeehan explains the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee:

Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

In conclusion, you cannot afford to wait any time to file a claim after an accident with an injury occurs. There are several reasons time is of the essence. Evidence is only available for a limited time for gathering. The opening to negotiate with an insurance company is rather narrow. And in Tennessee, the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit with the courts can sneak up on you. Don’t wait another minute to contact the McKeehan Law Group and get the process started towards compensation for your injury in order to continue healing.


Close up of a hand with a wedding ring

Divorce Mediation in Tennessee: How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

The stress around obtaining a divorce is high for all parties involved, particularly when it comes to child custody and dividing marital assets. It’s inevitable that many divorce proceedings will wind up with attorneys fighting it out in court. However, the choice of pursuing divorce mediation can lessen the drama, cost, and time of getting a divorce.

Divorce Mediation in Tennessee

In Tennessee, it is a requirement to pursue mediation first in any divorce proceedings. Mediation is one of several forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the state. 

Tennessee defines divorce mediation as the work of a neutral third party to facilitate ADR in a divorce. This mediator works with the divorcing parties and their representatives to reach a mutual agreement on issues raised. The goal of mediation is to resolve disputes between divorcing parties in a way that satisfies both of them. When mediation is pursued, parties can reach an agreement on even the most contentious issues, like child custody. It doesn’t always work out that way, but not only is it required by Tennessee law to try, but the chance it could work also makes it worth the effort to avoid court.

Some Tips to Remember in the Divorce Mediation Process

First, you need to find a professional mediator who can act as an impartial intermediary between divorcing parties. A mediator can help couples avoid litigation and court hearings that can be expensive and time-consuming.

Another tip is to come prepared to make decisions for yourself. The mediator is there to move things forward and help you come to an agreement, but being impartial, they do not offer guidance on a personal level. You are left to take in the information and decide how you wish to proceed.

Both parties have to decide to give mediation a chance if it is actually going to work. Not only must they both retain a willingness to compromise, but they must also actively participate in the mediation process to find an acceptable solution.

Successful divorce mediation requires transparency and good-faith negotiation. You must be willing to disclose all relevant information to the mediator and your spouse. It is imperative that you remain truthful and do not hide any assets for this process to be successful.

In addition to hiring a mediator, you will benefit from also engaging a divorce attorney. This attorney should accompany you to the mediator’s office, where each party will normally spend most of their time in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between. A lawyer can help you sort through the sometimes-dense vocabulary used in legal filings and proceedings.

Mediation does not eliminate contention or complexity. In his practice, Jed addresses all the issues in mediated divorces that are addressed in conventional litigation, including high net worth divorce, complex child support issues, and alimony. Remember that you cannot resolve all divorces through mediation, and some require an escalation to litigation and court appearances.

Divorce Mediation Checklist 

To prepare for mediation both parties need to prepare a lot of information and documents. It can get confusing to shuffle through everything and bring exactly what you need for each session. It never hurts to have a checklist to follow when required to get so much stuff together. Here is a basic list: 

  • Both federal and state (where applicable) tax returns
  • Pay stubs: at least the most recent 3
  • Tax documents that show wages from the past year: W-2 or a 1099 form
  • Valuation of all partnerships or other business interests
  • Real estate property valuation
  • Valuations of any vehicles, boats, and trailers
  • All bank accounts, including savings, checking, money markets, and Certificates of Deposit
  • Stocks, bonds, secured notes, mutual funds, and any other non-retirement investments
  • Retirement accounts and pensions
  • Life insurance, specifically whole life policies
  • Property of significant value, such as jewelry, antiques, works of art, or coin collections
  • Loans for real estate
  • Credit cards and revolving credit
  • Any other current loans and debt

Divorce Mediation and Child Custody

It’s important to know the child custody laws in Tennessee before entering into mediation during divorce proceedings. In fact, there are 15 factors in deciding child custody in the state, and those can be reviewed by clicking here. Once you understand how the laws work, you must make a few decisions specific to using a mediator to sort out child custody during a divorce or otherwise.

Have a clear idea of your desired outcome from the proceedings, including desired parenting time, specific needs in a parenting plan, and how much child support you might need or can expect by law. Also, realize that parenting time can often affect child support obligations and seek to understand how that might come into play.

What happens if divorce mediation fails?

If efforts towards a settlement through divorce mediation fail, you have to go to trial. Because mediation can stretch on for a long time, some Tennessee courts will set a deadline for it to end by setting a trial date. In other cases, it is up to the divorcing parties to ask for a date to be set for trial. Inevitably, the preparation for trial and the trial itself can be the most expensive part of your divorce. Be sure to work with an attorney who has the experience to help explore all options.

Whether you’re in search of an experienced divorce attorney or mediator for your divorce proceedings, McKeehan Law Group offers its services for you to hire. With more than a decade of combined experience, they understand how to provide compassionate and personalized service to help you through this difficult time in your life. Contact McKeehan Law Group online or call to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.

Child support stock photo

When Do Child Support Payments End in Tennessee?

For custodial and non-custodial parents, there is no point more contentious than the amount and timing of child custody payments from one to another. Tennessee law states that both parents are equally responsible for their minor child’s “care, nurture, welfare, education, and support”. Even with this expectation understood, the most popular question about child support payments in Tennessee is when they are going to end. This is a question asked by both those paying and receiving payments.

At What Age Does Child Support End?

When a relationship that produced a child dissolves, the court typically puts in place a child support order. A child support order can apply to several situations, including divorce, a legal separation, or child custody without the existence of any other legal relationship. In this order, parents are made legally responsible for the financial support of their child and the maintenance of their child’s life.

This legal responsibility remains until one of the following happens (based on the one that happens second):

  • The child arrives at his or her eighteenth birthday and is no longer in high school.
  • If the child turns eighteen while still attending high school, child support obligations will continue until he or she graduates with their senior class or when their class graduates if the student drops out

In the vast majority of Tennessee cases, these are the situations under which child support responsibility ends. However, as with most things, there are some exceptions to this rule of law.

Exceptions to the Child Support Responsibility Rule

A parent may be required to pay child support for a different period of time, in accordance with the child support order, under specific circumstances.

Child Support Termination Before the Age of 18 

Child Emancipation: If a child successfully seeks and receives emancipation from their parents, it would affect a child’s custody and support order. The emancipation of a minor child is an exception to child support responsibilities in Tennessee. It would result in the termination of parents’ legal responsibility for support, even before the child turns 18.

Extending Child Support Beyond the Age of 18

There are a couple of extenuating circumstances that can extend a parent’s child support obligations beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday and high school graduation.

College Student: If the child enters college, immediately upon graduation from high school or upon turning eighteen, a child custody support agreement can extend to cover expenses while the child is enrolled in full-time classes. This is usually a mutual decision to extend support, though the court can force the issue.

Disabled Adult Child: Support for a severely disabled child can be continued past the age of 18, and even beyond the age of 21. Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-5-101(k)(1) lays out the details, but let’s summarize:

  • In any circumstance when a child is handicapped or disabled, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), monetary support for that child can be extended until the child reaches twenty-one years old.
  • If the child is ruled severely disabled and is living under the care of one parent, the court can rule the non-custodial parent responsible for continuing child support payments, regardless of the child’s age.

How To Terminate Child Support Payments

You must make a motion with the courts to terminate child support when the age of eighteen or high school graduation (whichever happens second) is reached. Be careful and resist the urge to stop payments without going through the court. This can find you in arrearage (an amount of money that is owed and should have been paid earlier), which can complicate any termination of the court order. Even if you’ve reached what should be the natural end to child support payments, a court can force you to continue until all back payments are made, sometimes with interest. This can be avoided by planning ahead for the child’s birthday or graduation by getting your motion scheduled to file for termination of child support on or near this date.

Can Child Support Orders Be Modified?

In the state of Tennessee, there are circumstances that allow modifications to be made. Orders that cover more than one child are most often modified when the older child graduates from high school and is eighteen.

In theory, this should result in a lower monthly payment. For example, the reduction of one child out of three being covered by a plan might cut a monthly payment by one-third. However, the opening of a child support agreement, for this reason, may not have the expected result. The recipient-parent could use the reopened agreement to pursue a higher payment

Tennessee courts will take a couple of things into consideration when deciding upon a modification. They will examine the reasons and proof provided by the parents, both that of the obligated and recipient. The decision will be made using the Child Support Worksheet, as provided by the state.


Tennessee Child Support Laws

As in any state, there are a lot of rules to consider when deciding, modifying, or ending child support in Tennessee. There is a lot more to know about TN child support and having all of the facts will help guide decisions. Click to learn 21 of the most important things to know about child support in Tennessee.

Every case is different, and because of this, working with an experienced family law attorney should be a high priority. Jed McKeehan is a board-certified, family-law attorney in Knoxville, TN. His expertise in Tennessee child custody laws is extensive.

Getting Jed, or another experienced family law attorney, involved in any Knoxville-area child custody proceedings will increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. Getting them involved early in the process is essential. You can contact Jed through his website attorney-knoxville.com or give him a call at (865) 294-8008.

Gavel and rings stock image

9 Crucial Tips to Prepare for a Divorce Trial From an Expert Tennessee Attorney

When you got married, you were certain they were The One. But as it turns out, forever isn't as long as you thought.

Now that the arguing is over, the papers have been filed, and your divorce trial is on the horizon, you're gearing up for a legal fight that will change the shape of your life going forward. It's scary, saddening, and often infuriating to stand in a divorce court opposite someone you cared quite deeply about.

But if you're not prepared for your divorce trial, it won't go the way you hope. Here's what you need to know to prepare for your trial.

Meet with Your Attorney Early and Often

Some people filing for divorce resist getting a lawyer because they don't want to seem combative. But the truth is that if you want your divorce to shake out equitably, an attorney is the single greatest asset you have.

Meet with your local divorce attorney early and often to discuss your trial strategy. It should be crystal clear what you want and what is realistic.

In addition, divorce attorneys are better versed in the quirks of divorce court than the average person, so they can help you prepare various details of your case that you might overlook.

Do you plan on testifying yourself? If so, you'll have to prepare testimony in advance.

Will you call witnesses to testify on your behalf? If so, you need to know who you're calling in advance.

What exhibits will you present? Those have to be assembled and submitted to the court before the trial.

Meeting before your trial is also a preparatory exercise for your lawyer just as much as it is for you. You know your soon-to-be-ex better than anyone, which means you can help your attorney prepare for the testimony your spouse will likely give and the story their attorney will tell.

Get Your Papers in Order

It's also important to meet with your attorney early because you have to get your paperwork in order well before your trial.

With all the stress of divorce, the last thing you want is to frantically dig for a 2015 tax return at 1 a.m. the night before your trial. The sooner you can collect all the relevant documents, the sooner your attorney can help build your case.

Your attorney is also the person best-equipped to let you know what documents they need. Common documents you should share with your attorney include things like:

  • Individual income tax returns (federal, state, and local) for the past three to five years
  • Business income tax returns (federal, state, and local) for the past three to five years
  • Property tax statements
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Prenuptial agreement (where applicable)
  • Proof of your current income
  • Proof of your spouse's current income
  • Pension statements
  • Retirement account statements
  • Mortgages
  • Loan documents
  • Life insurance policies
  • Wills, living wills, and powers of attorney
  • List of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage
  • List of property jointly acquired during the marriage

This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place to start.

Prepare Opening and Closing Arguments

From there, your attorney can help you prepare your opening and closing arguments.

The word "argument" is a bit of a misnomer--you're not arguing your case, per se. These are factual statements of the case at hand, given to set the theme of the story that you and your attorney are trying to tell in this case.

Your opening statement sets the tone for the rest of the case, giving the judge or jury a chance to anchor information and form impressions. The best opening statements use the facts to tell an organized story, assembling the facts persuasively without making an outright argument.

Your closing statement brings the case full circle. It's your chance to address unfavorable facts, create the right energy, and engage your audience. A good closing statement reviews the evidence of the case and casts it in the right light, helping your listener understand the evidence in a manner that's to your benefit.

Work with your attorney to prepare your statements, and have your attorney edit your statements rigorously. If you're not sure you can give statements yourself, ask your attorney for coaching, or ask them to give the statements on your behalf.

Prepare to Testify

Your attorney can also help you prepare to testify. And no, it's not at all like what you see on TV.

On TV, witnesses and participants giving testimony are often shown being surprised by questions, answering emotionally, and with great detail. In a real court trial, your attorney will do everything they can to stop that situation from occurring.

Answering Questions

When testifying, listen carefully to the question and repeat it in your head to make sure you understand it. If you do not understand exactly what you are being asked, ask for clarification.

This is also important because you have to be careful of compound questions, questions that are phrased to give a wrongful summation of facts, and questions that assume untrue facts. Your ex's attorney will ask questions designed to present you in a certain light. Think carefully about the question before responding.

When you answer a question, the most important thing is to reply with the shortest answer consistent with the truth. Then stop talking. You should not volunteer information unnecessarily. For example, if asked, "do you own Microsoft stock?" and the answer is no, simply say no, rather than explicating further.

The Shortest Version of "The Whole Truth"

On a related note, answer every question honestly--including the ones that hurt you or cast you in a bad light. Again, do not volunteer information unnecessarily, and do not characterize your responses.

For example, if asked, "Did you have an affair with ______?" and the answer is yes, simply say yes and stop talking. Do not attempt to qualify or justify. Stop talking. Attorneys know that people will talk themselves into a hole if made uncomfortable, and they're trying to make you say something while emotional.

Tamp down your emotions. Do not fall for it. Answer honestly, answer simply and then stop talking.

Are You Preparing for a Divorce Trial?

Preparing for a divorce trial is one of the most stressful situations anyone can navigate. Having the right support in your corner is critical to coming out the other side with your head held high.

Our team has over a decade of experience in divorce and family law. We prioritize handling every case with the care, compassion, and empathy your family needs to navigate this difficult time.

If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, get in touch today to let us know how we can help.

What is a will title slide

What is a Will & Why Do I Need One in Tennessee?

A will, or last will and testament, is a legal document that outlines your final wishes as they pertain to assets and dependents upon your death. You can have your assets distributed to another person, group, or charity, and those wishes are included with as much detail as you desire in your final will. Also, you should also include instructions for the transfer of responsibility of other persons or interests for which you are accountable. Plus, it always pays to plan for the future.

What Happens When a Person Dies Without a Will in Tennessee?

In the state of Tennessee, there is a very specific order of how assets are distributed when a person dies without a will. Here is the order of inheritance in Tennessee for 2020:

  1. If married with no children, the spouse inherits everything.
  2. If married with children, the spouse gets at least 1/3 of the assets with the children splitting the rest. If there is only one child, the spouse and child would each get half of the assets.
  3. If unmarried with children, the children split the assets evenly.
  4. If unmarried with no children or spouse, the inheritance order goes as follows:
    1. Parents (all assets)
    2. Siblings (if no living parents split assets evenly)
    3. Grandparents (all assets, if no living parents or siblings)

Assuming that you might want something different, it makes sense to put together at least a simple legal will. For example, an unmarried person without children might want to leave assets to a niece, nephew, or friend.

Learn more about the process of distributing assets of a deceased person without a will from Knoxville attorney Jed McKeehan:

What Makes a Will Legal and Valid

Novels and movies make writing a will look as simple as scribbling a few things on a scrap of paper as you draw a final breath, but in spite of this somewhat-romantic notion, making a will legally binding requires a few more steps.

In Tennessee, there are several forms that wills take that are recognized: basic legal will with witnesses, holographic (or handwritten) wills, and nuncupative (oral) wills. Let’s review each of these.

By far, meeting the requirements for a typical legal last will and testament is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out.

The basic requirements in Tennessee are as follows: The testator (the person writing the will) must be over 18-years-old and be of sound mind. There must be a signature from the testator, as well as two witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the will. All must be in the other’s presence. The will must be in writing, and it’s legal for the testator to leave his or her assets to anyone.

There are two other recognized types of wills in Tennessee, though they are more easily challenged than the above: Holographic (handwritten) wills and nuncupative (oral) wills.

A holographic will is similar to the scrap of paper mentioned above. It must be written entirely word-for-word by the testator and signed. All parts of this will must be in the testator’s handwriting, and the handwriting must be verified as that of the testator by two witnesses, who are not benefiting from the will.
A nuncupative will is made vocally in front of a witness but is only valid under specific circumstances. It is only valid under Tennessee law if the testator is in immediate danger of death or if the person dies as a result of unexpected peril.

McKeehan shares more about the legality of a holographic will in Tennessee in this video:

Do I Need a Will or a Living Trust

The definitions of a legal will in the state of Tennessee have been provided above, so that leaves the question of what is a living trust? Whereas a last will and testament are only executable upon the testator’s death, a living trust places assets into it immediately upon creation.

When this happens, legal ownership of those assets transfers from the person to the living trust. The most relevant trust in estate planning is the irrevocable trust. Placing assets in this type of trust can give you a tax advantage. Find more information about trusts and estate planning from attorney Jed McKeehan.

One advantage of establishing a living trust for your assets before your death is to avoid your estate going into probate. What does probate mean? It is a term that describes the legal process of validating a will after someone dies.

A probate court judge will validate the legality of a will and assign an executor of the will. The executor will manage the payment of any owed debts and then distribute the remaining assets, as specified by the last will and testament of the deceased.

Remember if you establish a living trust for your tangible assets, you may still need to draw up a will to appoint guardianship of your children or designate other responsibilities you might have.

When Do You Need an Attorney For Wills?

Although there are plenty of websites that offer a guide to creating a will yourself without the help of an attorney, that may not be a great idea, unless you have the most basic of estates and bequeaths.

If your estate has any complications, like multiple accounts, properties or other assets, and if you are making any special designations, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney.

It is possible without legal guidance that a court could find your will invalid partially or wholly, which would be unneeded stress on those left behind. Hiring an attorney in the state where the will is being filed will validate the format of your last will and testament in accordance with the state’s unique set of laws.

Contesting a Will

It is expensive to contest a legal will in court, but sometimes people will try. Luckily, there are rules that govern whether a will can be challenged or not. Sometimes those rules can protect your final requests.

Depending on the state in which your will is executed, specific criteria will need to be met in order to challenge a legal will. In the state of Tennessee, there are some specific rules around contesting a last will and testament. Among these you’ll find:

  • There is a statute of limitations on filing a dispute of one year from the date it enters probate.
  • Only those who can show they would be entitled to a share of the estate, if not for the will, can legally contest it.
  • The grounds for contesting the will must fall within the narrow circumstances as allowed by Tennessee law:
    • Improper execution of the will
    • Lack of capacity
    • Undue influence

There are ways to avoid most challenges, even from the unhappiest family members. Doing as much to limit later challenges when you compose your will and designate any beneficiaries is key. Following these steps when creating and executing your will should do what is needed to stop any challenge:

  • As we’ve discussed, hiring an attorney to help legally compose and execute your will is your first important step. Don’t forget to have two people witnesses and sign the document to make it valid in Tennessee. The lawyer can also help you head-off any competency claims by performing a competency test. Also, a video of the signing of the will can be recorded and stored with the document.
  • There is an option to include a no-contest clause in the will. This is perhaps the most effective to prevent challenges. It basically states that if a relative challenges the will they will get nothing.
  • If you fear someone will feel shortchanged by your decisions, you could get out ahead of it by meeting with this person to explain, as you are drafting the will. If that is too uncomfortable, including a letter of explanation to this person with the will could be helpful.

If you follow the general suggestions when creating your last will and testament, most of these issues can be avoided.

In conclusion, no matter the size of your estate, it makes sense to plan ahead by composing a last will and testament to erase the burden of your family upon your death that they will feel if required to distribute your estate.

Contacting an attorney based in Tennessee can make the process a lot simpler and will leave your legacy planning more secure.

At McKeehan Law Group, we can help you with all of these estate planning decisions. You can contact us through our website or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Harassment Screenshot

Order of Protection - How To Stop Harassment (... and it's NOT what you think!)

What recourse does a person have when being harmed or threatened by another? In many cases, the courts are allowed to step in and offer protection and guidance. This can be triggered by filing for an Order of Protection that can prevent direct communication of one person with specified other in any form.

Order of Protection vs. Restraining Order

Commonly, the phrase Restraining Order is mentioned by characters on TV and movies, or by members of the general public, who feel as if they are in need of protection from another individual. In legal terms, these people are usually not in need of a Restraining Order, but instead, need an Order of Protection. It turns out there is a huge difference between a Restraining Order and an Order of Protection.

What is a Restraining Order?

Restraining Orders are typically issued in business matters. Individuals can be prohibited from carrying out a certain action by a court-issued Restraining Order. For example, an employee has been trusted with a list of clients. When this employee leaves their current employer, that employer can file for an order that restrains them from using the client list at their new job.

What is an Order of Protection?

When an individual seeks protection from another because they are fearful, they would need an Order of Protection issued by a court of law. An Order of Protection helps protect individuals from physical violence, threats of violence, and other forms of harassment or abuse.

An Order will only be issued if an individual is in fear of harm or has actually been harmed by the subject of the Order of Protection. Also, there are relationship requirements in order to get an Order of Protection. Individuals must be in, or have been in, a sexual or dating relationship or must be relatives by blood or marriage. Otherwise, the individual filing for protection must have proof of stalking by the subject of the order.

How to Apply for an Order of Protection

To apply for an Order of Protection an individual must start by visiting their local courthouse or by contacting an attorney. Paperwork requesting an Order of Protection must be filled out and submitted properly. Any mistakes on the Order could result in denial of the granting of an order of protection by the court. This is why it’s crucial you have a professional, like an attorney, fill out and file the paperwork for you.

There are two types of orders available: A “No Contact Order” that requires no contact of any kind be made by the subject of the order (the defendant), including direct and indirect communication. Indirect communication includes contact via letters, emails, social networks, etc. A “Social Contact Order” allows communication between the individual filing for the order (the petitioner) and the defendant, including cohabitation, but there can be no harm done to the individual nor can there be attempts to harm or threats of harm made.

What Are the Steps to Get an Order of Protection?

Once the paperwork is filed for the type of Order of Protection needed, a judge must review the paperwork and sign it. A hearing must be scheduled by the court within 14 days. The Order can temporarily be implemented as an Ex Parte Order of Protection, meaning that based solely on the word of the applicant, the subject of the Order cannot be in contact during the time between the filing date and the hearing. If this temporary order is granted, a process server from the court or a police officer will serve a certified copy of the Ex Parte Order of Protection to the subject of the order in person.

To obtain an Order of Protection, the applicant must attend their court date. In some cases, the parties have reached some sort of an agreement that prevents or restricts the defendant’s contact with the petitioner. In these cases, there will be an Agreed Order signed by the parties and submitted to the judge for signature and entry and the Order of Protection can start without a full hearing.

A Contested Order of Protection hearing is heard in front of the judge and occurs when the parties cannot agree to all or part of the Petitioner’s requested Order of Protection. During this hearing, both sides are allowed to make statements or even produce witnesses to support their story. At this hearing, the judge either grants or dismisses the request for an Order of Protection. If granted, an Order of Protection remains in place for one year, although the judge can award an Order of Protection for a shorter period of time of their choosing, such as a month, three months or six months.

What Does an Order of Protection Mean?

Once an Order of Protection is granted by the court, whether a temporary Ex Parte Order or an official Order of Protection, it places limitations on the defendant in regard to their contact and communication with the petitioner. An Order of Protection prohibits any contact between the defendant and petitioner, including in-person visits, phone calls, letters, emails, social media posts, and any other form of contact.

Additional milestones can be included in an Order of Protection that must be met before it is lifted. These can include treatment to address domestic violence and alcohol and/or drug abuse. Any violation of the order can prolong the length of the Order of Protection, and it could result in up to 10 days in jail per violation. If prohibited contact is made, the individual who filed the Order of Protection should report it immediately to the police and have a copy of the Order ready to show them.

Contact Allowed When Under an Order of Protection

For the defendant, an Order of Protection being granted typically results in a complete suspension in contact with the petitioner. This includes all direct and indirect communication, including in-person engagement, phone calls, emails, social media posts, online messaging, and more. Additionally, if the defendant receives communication from the petitioner they must not reply in any way. It is a one way street of communication. The petitioner can contact the defendant as much as they want and the defendant is not allowed to respond to these communications even once. Even a reply to a communication from the petitioner could be considered a violation of the Order of Protection and could result in arrest.

The only contact allowed under an Order of Protection includes an initial removal of belongings at the beginning of an order, while accompanied by the police, and any exception agreed upon in the Order specifically, such as communication involving children. Overall, it’s best to resist any urge to communicate while under an Order of Protection to avoid paying penalties.

If you feel you need an Order of Protection or have had one placed against you and don’t know what you should do, then schedule a free consultation with Jed McKeehan today by calling (865) 294-8008. Jed is here to help make sure you have the information you need in order to make difficult decisions.

Last will and testament estate paperwork

Leaving a Legacy: Your Complete Estate Planning Guide

New research shows that 3 in 5 Americans do not have a will. Another recent study has also revealed that almost half of people over 55 do not have a will, and only 18% report having estate planning in place. 

Although the data shows that it’s very common for Americans to go through life without estate planning—or even a will—this is not necessarily a good idea. 

If you pass away without having implemented proper estate planning you expose your estate and beneficiaries to a number of risks. 

Read this estate planning guide to find out what estate planning is, why it's important, and how to go about it. 

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of arranging your affairs so that upon death or physical impairment your wishes will be easy to have carried out. 

During estate planning, you will need to draw up a series of documents that stipulate your wishes and puts in place contingencies for death or medical impairment. 

One area that can get confusing for people is the differences between wills and testaments, trusts, living trusts, and estate plans. Let's get clear on these terms. 

Testaments vs Trusts vs Estate Plan

Estate planning often gets confused with the act of making a will and testament. 

Drawing up a will and testament is part of estate planning, however, estate planning goes beyond creating a will. Forming different types of trusts (such as living trusts) is also part of estate planning. 

Why Estate Planning Is Important

As you can see, estate planning is more comprehensive than drawing up a will and testament. It includes a will, but it can also comprise of trust formations, tax planning, living wills, power of attorney, etc. 

The main benefit of estate planning is that it will take care of your estate in a more thorough way that a simple will and testament can. This will make your estate legally stronger, and will also include provisions for difficult circumstances, such as guardianship of a child. 

Because of this, estate planning can work to protect your beneficiaries from unforeseen legal proceedings or any contesting of you will. Additionally, thorough estate planning can reduce family fights after your death. 

Lastly, estate planning can help you to spare your heirs from unnecessary taxes. 

Who Is It For?

Estate planning is generally a good idea. However, there are some instances where a will can suffice. 

For example, if you are single and you have few to no assets, then a simple will and testament will probably be adequate. 

On the other hand, if you are married, have children, have a number of assets and assets types, have a blended family, are older, or have a high level of financial responsibility to those around you, then it's likely that you should implement estate planning. 

In short, estate planning is advisable when you have more assets, more financial responsibility, and a more complicated will. 

The Basics of Estate Planning

Now that you know about the importance of estate planning and who needs to do it, let's take a look at the basics of estate planning.

First up, every estate plan needs a will and testament. To be valid, the will needs to be signed by yourself, as well as two witnesses. If you want to know more, take a look at this video on who needs to sign a will for it to be properly executed.

Besides this document, you will also need a few other things to put in place a solid estate plan. These include the following. 

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations stipulate which of your heirs are entitled to receive the money from any life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other savings accounts that you may have. 

Living Wills

Living wills detail your wishes should you suffer severe illness or incapacity that leaves you unable to make decisions etc. 

For example, if have religious beliefs around resuscitation, these should be included in a living will. You should also list any preferences you have around organ donation and life support machines. 

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is someone who is authorized to sign and make medically related decisions on your behalf should be you be incapacitated. 

This person would usually be your spouse, child, or someone else who you trust implicitly. 

Durable Power of Attorney

Another important component of an estate plan is a durable power of attorney. By giving someone durable power of attorney, you will ensure that your family can remain financially stable in the event of you becoming incapacitated or passing on. 

Giving someone signing power means that they can make financial decisions if you are unable to, among other things. A durable power of attorney can be given to a spouse or other trusted family member, or it can be given to your attorney.

Guardianship Designations

If you have children that are underage, you should also include guardianship designations within your basic estate planning. However, if you have already stipulated guardianship for your children within your will, you do not need to create an additional document. 

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is left to your executor or beneficiaries and lets them know what you intended for your estate or for particular assets. This document is not recognized in the eyes of the law, however, if it comes to it, it can help a probate judge gauge what your true intentions were for your estate—should there be any complications or your will is deemed invalid. 

A letter of intent can also list any funeral arrangements that you would like carried out. 

Where to Start With an Estate Plan

Are you ready to start laying out your estate plan? If so, congrats, it's a smart move. 

The first things to get clear on are your assets and beneficiaries. What is the value of your estate, and how do you want to apportion it? 

Once you have given this some consideration, your next step should be to contact your attorney and ask them to start drafting the necessary documents. You may also wish to speak to them or to your accountant about estate-related tax planning. 

Use This Estate Planning Guide to Guarantee Your Legacy

If you have a legacy to leave, whether large or small, you need to use the information in this estate planning guide to ensure the safe transfer of it to your loved ones. 

If you require the assistance of an attorney, look no further. I specialize in wills and estate planning and am excited to help you with everything you need for your estate plan. Contact me, or browse my services today.