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.

Execution

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

Proving

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
How to Contest a Will in Minnesota
 

References

Resources

Related articles

Arkansas Will and Testament Filing

In Arkansas, as in most states, the probate process begins with filing the deceased’s will. It is a necessary first step before any payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of his property to his beneficiaries can begin. The Circuit Court in the county where the testator lived when he passed away oversees probate. The court permits jury trials in the event of a dispute, and can punish anyone who doesn’t cooperate with the probate process with contempt of court.

Facts About Wills

Your last will and testament is the only way that you will be able to control the distribution of your assets after you die. If you die without leaving a will or if your will is defective in some way and cannot be enforced, a court will distribute your property according to state intestacy laws.

The Inheritance Hierarchy Without a Will in New York State

A person who dies without leaving a will is said to have died “intestate.” New York courts distribute intestate property according to a statutory scheme of succession and these laws apply only to property located in the state of New York. Laws of other states may apply to real property located outside of New York, even if the decedent had been a legal resident of the state. The intent of New York's intestate succession law is to distribute the estate in the manner in which the decedent likely would have had she left a will; the statutory scheme distributes the decedent's property to the closest surviving relatives first.

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

Related articles

Is a Hand-Written Notarized Will Legal?

Your will can direct the distribution of your property after your death, name someone you trust to manage your estate ...

Divorce Law & Visitation Statutes in Georgia

Although there may be no such thing as a perfect divorce, most states attempt to achieve that ideal, at least where ...

How to Contest Wills in Tennessee

A will contest can fracture relationships and involve significant attorney fees. However, if you are contesting a will ...

Can Wills Be Contested?

Wills can be contested, but the process is subject to complex laws that vary from state to state. If you believe you ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED