Define a Legal Last Will & Testament in Tennessee

by A.L. Kennedy
    A testator must be 18 and of sound mind to make a will in Tennessee.

    A testator must be 18 and of sound mind to make a will in Tennessee.

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    Like all states, Tennessee has laws that outline how a will must be executed in order for it to be legal. Tennessee's laws for a last will and testament are found in Chapter 31 of the Tennessee Code. The laws cover topics like who can make a will, what a will should include and how to revoke a will.

    Legal Testator

    In Tennessee, anyone "of sound mind" and at least 18 years of age may legally make a will, according to the Tennessee Probate Code. Usually, the requirement to be "of sound mind" only means that the testator understands she is making a will. The testator must also sign her will. The testator's signature is valid if, in front of two witnesses, the testator either signs her will, acknowledges that the signature already on the will is hers, or tells a second person to sign the will for her in her presence.


    The testator must have at least two people witness the signing of her will. The witnesses, like the testator, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The witnesses may watch the testator sign her own will, watch someone else sign the will at the testator's instruction and in the presence of the testator, or watch the testator acknowledge that a signature already on the will is hers. The witnesses must then each sign the will in the presence of the testator and of one another, according to the Tennessee Probate Code.

    Holographic and Nuncupative Wills

    Holographic and nuncupative wills offer two exceptions to the witness requirement under Tennessee law. In a holographic will, "the signature and all its material provisions" must be in the testator's handwriting, according to the Tennessee Probate Code. A holographic will does not have to be signed by two witnesses, but the probate court will require two witnesses to testify that the handwriting belongs to the testator before the will can be probated. A nuncupative will is spoken, rather than written. In Tennessee, nuncupative wills can only be made if the testator is in imminent danger of death and dies due to the imminent danger, according to the Tennessee Probate Code. The nuncupative will must be spoken in the presence of two disinterested witnesses who stand to receive nothing from the will. One of these witnesses must write down the will within 30 days and file it with the probate court within six months, or the nuncupative will is no longer valid.


    Once you've made a will in Tennessee, you can revoke it at any time before your death. Tennessee law allows testators to revoke wills in four different ways. First, a prior will is revoked if a later will is made that states the later will revokes the prior will. Second, a document of revocation will revoke a will if it is signed and witnessed according to the same rules that apply to will signatures and witnesses. Third, a will may be revoked by destroying it completely, such as by fire, tearing or scribbling so the will is illegible. Finally, a prior will is revoked automatically if the testator divorces the spouse he had when he made the will, then remarries and has a child with his new spouse. The prior will is not renewed if the second marriage ends in divorce, however. Nuncupative wills can never be used to revoke a prior will, according to the Tennessee Probate Code.

    About the Author

    A.L. Kennedy is a professional grant writer and nonprofit consultant. She has been writing and editing for various nonfiction publications since 2004. Her work includes various articles on nonprofit law, human resources, health and fitness for both print and online publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Alabama.

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