Tennessee Last Will and Testament Law


Wills and Estates – Last Will and Testament Law – Tennessee

Note:    This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of wills in Tennessee, but does contain basic and other provisions.  A discussion of hand written wills is not included.

Persons qualified to make a will: Any person of sound mind eighteen (18) years of age or older may make a will. 32-1-102.

Witnesses – Who may act: Any person competent to be a witness generally in this state may act as attesting witness to a will. No will is invalidated because attested by an interested witness, but any interested witness shall, unless the will is also attested by two (2) disinterested witnesses, forfeit so much of the provisions therein made for him as in the aggregate exceeds in value, as of the date of the testator’s death, what he would have received had the testator died intestate. 32-1-103.

Non cupative will: A nuncupative will may be made only by a person in imminent peril of death, whether from illness or otherwise, and shall be valid only if the testator died as a result of the impending peril, and must be declared to be the testator’s will by the testator before two (2) disinterested witnesses. It must be reduced to writing by or under the direction of one of the witnesses within thirty (30) days after such declaration; and submitted for probate within six (6) months after the death of the testator. The nuncupative will may dispose of personal property only and to an aggregate value not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), except that in the case of persons in active military, air or naval service in time of war the aggregate amount may be ten thousand dollars ($10,000). A nuncupative will neither revokes nor changes an existing written will.32-1-106

Execution of Will: The execution of a will must be by the signature of the testator and of at least two (2) witnesses as follows:
(1) The testator shall signify to the attesting witnesses that the instrument is his will and sign the will in the presence of two (2) or more attesting witnesses.
(2) The attesting witnesses must sign:
(A) In the presence of the testator; and
(B) In the presence of each other. 32-1-104.

Foreign execution: A will may be executed outside Tennessee in a manner prescribed by Tennessee law, or a written will executed outside this state in a manner prescribed by the law of the place of its execution or by the law of the testator’s domicile at the time of its execution. 32-1-107.

Actions effecting a revocation of will: A will or any part thereof is revoked by:
(1) A subsequent will which revokes the prior will or part expressly or by inconsistency;
(2) Document of revocation, executed with all the formalities of an attested will which revokes the prior will or part expressly;
(3) Being burned, torn, cancelled, obliterated or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking it by the testator or by another person in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s direction; or
(4) Both the subsequent marriage and the birth of a child of the testator. Divorce or annulment of the subsequent marriage does not revive a prior will. 32-1-201.

Revocation by divorce or annulment:
(a) If after executing a will the testator is divorced or the testator’s marriage annulled, the divorce or annulment revokes any disposition or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse, any provision conferring a general or special power of appointment on the former spouse, and any nomination of the former spouse as executor, trustee, conservator or guardian, unless the will expressly provides otherwise. If provisions are revoked solely by this section, they are revived by the testator’s remarriage to the former spouse. 32-1-202.

Deposit of will with probate court:
(a) With respect to a testator who is living, any will in writing, being enclosed in a sealed wrapper, and having endorsed thereon the name of the testator, the testator’s place of residence and the testator’s social security number or driver license number, if any, and the day when, and the person by whom, it is delivered, may be deposited by the person making the will, or by any person for the person making the will, with the court exercising probate jurisdiction in the county where the testator lives. With respect to a deceased testator, any will in writing may be deposited by any person with the court exercising probate jurisdiction in the county where the testator lived at the time of the testator’s death. The preceding provisions shall apply only if the clerk of such probate court has a secure vault or safe for the safe keeping of such will. Such probate court shall receive and safely and securely keep any such will, and give a certificate of the deposit thereof, and for this service shall charge a fee of five dollars ($5.00).
(b) Such will shall, during the lifetime of the testator, be delivered only to the testator, or to some person authorized by the testator by an order in writing, duly proved by the oath of a subscribing witness. Any such will which is deposited after the death of the testator shall be delivered only to a person named in the will as executor, to a next of kin of the testator, or to any other person so authorized by law or court order.
(c) After the death of the testator and upon submission of a death certificate or other satisfactory evidence of death as determined by the judge exercising probate jurisdiction, the will shall be opened by the court in open session and shall be made public.
(d) After the death of the testator, should jurisdiction of the will for probate belong to any other court, upon request of the executor named therein or any other person interested in its provisions, such will shall be forwarded by certified or registered mail to such other court or delivered to the executor, or to some other trusty person interested in the provisions of the will, to be presented for probate in such other court.
(e)(1) The deposit of a written will as provided by this section shall not constitute a probate of the will nor, if deposited prior to a testator’s death, preclude the testator from revoking it, amending it, withdrawing it, or depositing a substitute will, it being the intent and purpose of this section to provide only a place of depository for written wills, a procedure for depositing such wills, and a delivery of such wills for probate upon the death of the testator.
(2) If, after the death of the testator, a later will is discovered which supersedes a will deposited as provided in this section and such will is duly admitted to probate, or if a will deposited as provided in this section is for any other reason invalidated, following the administration of the estate of the testator by or on whose behalf such will is deposited, and the settlement of such estate, upon order by the judge of the probate court wherein the will was deposited, such will shall be destroyed. 32-1-112.