Is An Executor Required to File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Tennessee?

My 25 year old brother from Lebanon, Tennessee was killed in a car wreck in Tennessee. Some people have said that an estate must be opened and that an executor or administrator has to be appointed by the court in able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.  Is that true?

Not necessarily, but it may be required depending on other facts that you have not shared with me.

Generally speaking, these are the rules for who may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Tennessee:

  • A lawsuit for the death of a husband can be filed by his wife, his executor or the administrator of his estate.
  • A lawsuit for the death of a wife can be filed by her husband, her executor, or the administrator of her estate.
  • If a person is single at the time of his or her death, the lawsuit can be maintained by his or her adult children or, if there are no adult children, by his or her parents. The lawsuit can also be filed by an executor or administrator.
  • If a person is a single minor at the time of death, the lawsuit can be maintained by his or her parents. If the parents are divorced, special rules apply. The lawsuit can also be filed by an administrator.
  • If the decedent did not leave a spouse or child and was predeceased by his or her parents, the law permits a sibling to file suit. The lawsuit can also be filed by an executor or administrator.

So, if your brother was married at the time of his death his wife would have the primary right to bring the lawsuit.  If not, the primary right would go to his parents because, obviously, your 25 year old brother did not have any adult children.   If your parents predeceased or your brother or if they don’t want to pursue a case, a sibling can bring the case or an executor or administrator can be appointed to bring the case.

Remember that the right to bring the case does not necessarily include the right to receive money in the case.  The right to receive money from a successful wrongful death lawsuit is governed by a different law.  Go here to learn more about this area of Tennessee law.

Also remember that under Tennessee law a wrongful death case must be filed within one year of the date of the incident causing the death.