Tennessee State Laws on Wills

By Lee Carroll

Tennessee has complex statutory regulations regarding wills. The basic principles are clear, but the law also attempts to address a host of unusual circumstances to prevent a backlog of wills going through probate. When state regulations are followed, wills are more likely to be proved and less likely to be successfully contested, and the probate process works more smoothly. Although complications do arise, Tennessee rules help avoid the most common errors and problems.

Qualified Persons

Tennessee requires a testator to be at least 18 years old and have the mental capacity to make a will. (Reference 1, T.C.A. § 32-1-102) Mental capacity means she understands what a will is, how much property she owns, who her beneficiaries are and how the will functions at her death. Minors are not qualified to make a will in Tennessee; emancipated minors are no exception.


Wills must be executed according to the directions within Tennessee code. Written wills should be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in the presence of two witnesses who also sign in the presence of the testator and each other. Alternatively, the testator may affirm that an existing signature is his and have two witnesses sign. If he cannot sign, another person may sign for him in his presence and before two witnesses. (Reference 1, T.C.A. § 32-1-104)

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


A will must be proved, or validated, by one original witness, or all witnesses if it is contested. If witnesses are deceased or unable to perform, family or friends may prove the will. If a witness cannot appear in person, she may answer a formal set of questions to be presented to the court. (Reference 1, T.C.A. § 32-2-104) Nuncupative, or spoken, wills are proved 14 days after the death of the testator once the family is notified. If the family cannot be located, notice is given in publications such as newspapers once a week for up to four weeks.

Alteration and Revocation

Wills may be altered, destroyed or replaced at any time before the death of the testator. Wills may be revoked in writing or physically destroyed. When a person gets married or has a new or newly adopted child, his will is automatically revoked and must be replaced. (Reference 1, T.C.A. § 32-1-201)

Omitted Spouses and Children

Tennessee law allows testators to disinherit children unless they are unintentionally omitted because they were born after the will was created. Omitted spouses are automatically assigned a percentage of the estate. (Reference 1, T.C.A. § 32-3-108) The spousal percentage varies based on different factors, and is never less than one-third of the estate, explains Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Unintentionally omitted children inherit according to the laws of intestate succession, which govern how an estate is distributed when there is no valid will.

Public Record

Before a will is filed with the court, it is a private document. However, all wills become public record after they are filed with the court and are validated through probate. Anyone may view the will of another person once it is public record. Copies are obtained from the clerk for a fee.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Tennessee Estate Laws



Related articles

How to Prove a Will When Your Subscribing Witnesses Are All Dead or Unavailable

Wills can be an effective estate planning tool for distributing property after your death. But, for its terms to be honored when you pass away, most states require someone who was present at the time the will was signed to attest to the document's validity. Knowing how a will can be verified if all witnesses either pass away or cannot be found will help ensure that your property passes according to your wishes.

Virginia Inheritance Law for Siblings

If your brother or sister dies owning property in Virginia, your sibling’s will and Virginia law determine whether you inherit anything from the estate. If he left a valid will naming you as a beneficiary, you are eligible to inherit as his will directs, after his creditors are paid. If he didn’t leave a valid will, you may inherit under certain circumstances.

Mississippi Estate Inheritance Laws

If a Mississippi resident fails to make arrangements for the division of his property by making a will, his property will be divided according to state law. These laws are known as "laws of intestate succession," and they provide a distribution scheme that dictates a priority of heirs. In other words, certain relatives are entitled to all, or a portion of, a decedent's estate under certain circumstances -- if he didn't make a valid will. Dying without a valid will is known as dying "intestate."

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

Related articles

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will in North Carolina?

When a will is filed with the appropriate court, family members or other interested parties can contest the will and ...

Probate Law & Illinois Statute of Limitations

The purpose of any probate code, including that of Illinois, is to ensure a decedent’s property is properly ...

Probate Laws in Missouri

When someone dies in Missouri or dies owning property in Missouri, Missouri’s probate laws outline the procedures for ...

Types of Last Will & Testaments

Testators can use various types of wills to establish an estate plan. The most prevalent type is the written will, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED