Are Holographic Wills Legal in the State of Tennessee?

By Joseph Nicholson

A holographic will is a will that is written by hand instead of printed or typed. The state of Tennessee generally recognizes holographic wills, but the Tennessee Code has particular requirements for their validity. In order to make a valid holographic will, you must have the general capacity to create a will, which in Tennessee means you must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind.


A holographic will must be in the handwriting of the testator, or the person whose will it is intended to be. A will dictated by the testator and written by someone else does not qualify as a holographic will, but may be valid in Tennessee if it meets the state’s requirements for nuncupative, or oral, wills. As stated in the Tennessee Code, all material provisions of a holographic will, meaning the signature of the testator, the date and language identifying or disposing of estate assets, must be in the handwriting of the testator.


Any credible person that has not been convicted of a felony or crime of "moral turpitude" can serve as a witness to a will in Tennessee. Even a person who stands to receive property under the will can act as a witness. A valid holographic will does not need to be witnessed at the time it is signed by the testator. The handwriting of the testator, however, must be verified at the time of probate by at least two witnesses.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Holographic Wills Before February 15, 1941

According to the Tennessee Code, a holographic will executed on or to prior February 15, 1941 is subject to special conditions. A document that otherwise meets the requirements for a holographic will is capable of conveying interests in real estate if it is believed by at least three credible witnesses that the entire document is written in the handwriting of the testator. Such a will is valid if it is found among the papers of the testator, or lodged with a third party for safekeeping.

Foreign Execution

Though Tennessee recognizes holographic wills, it does not recognize a holographic will executed in a state that does not. For example, a will executed in South Carolina, a state that does not recognize holographic wills executed within its boundaries -- or in California, but does not satisfy that state’s requirements for holographic wills -- is not valid in Tennessee even if the will otherwise meets Tennessee’s requirements for holographic wills.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Requirements for a Legal Will in Minnesota



Related articles

Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Washington State?

In Washington State, a handwritten will is legal but all of the requirements under state law must be met.

Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Pennsylvania?

Handwritten wills have a long history in the United States, given that originally all wills were handwritten. However, in the interests of combating fraud and undue influence on testators, the requirements for a will to be declared valid have altered over the years. A handwritten will may be legal in Pennsylvania depending on the individual circumstances.

Handwritten Last Will & Testaments

Each state has its own laws on what constitutes a valid last will and testament. In most states, a will must be in writing, but whether it is typed or handwritten generally doesn't matter if the will meets all the other requirements for validity in the state. About half of states, however, recognize a special type of handwritten will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

Divorce Laws in Tennessee Regarding Willful Desertion

If your motivation for seeking a divorce in Tennessee is because your husband or wife deserts you, the state’s family ...

What Is a Legal Will in Texas?

A legal will in Texas is one that satisfies the requirements of the Texas Probate Code, especially sections 57 to 71. ...

Are Holographic Wills Legal in Illinois?

The general definition of a holographic will is that it is written by hand and is not witnessed. Different states have ...

What Constitutes a Legal Will in Pennsylvania?

Valid Pennsylvania wills must meet specific age, mental state and signature requirements. Certain circumstances also ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED