All states have a similar process for making wills; however, there are crucial differences that you need to know. Each state, including Tennessee, has its own statutory requirements regarding wills; and in order for your will to be recognized by the court as valid, you must follow these specific requirements. When you make a will in Tennessee, be sure to follow these stipulations, otherwise the court may reject your will. If you are choosing to make your will online, be sure to use an online will making service that offers a template customized for Tennessee.
Can I make a will online in Tennessee?
Yes, you can make a will online in Tennessee. To do so, use an online will making service. We recommend USLegalWills to make a will online.
Here are the legal requirements for online will making in Tennessee:
- You (also known as the Testator, or the person making the will) must be at least 18 years of age.
- You must be of sound mind.
- The will must be in writing. If you make a will online, you must print it out. The state of Tennessee does not allow digital-only wills.
- You must sign your will in front of two witnesses.
- Your witnesses must sign your will in front of you and each other.
You want to choose two “disinterested” witnesses; Tennessee state law includes the possibility any provisions left to a witness may be voided. You can otherwise choose any competent person who is at least 18 years old to act as a witness to your will. Tennessee also has a “presence” requirement; you and your witnesses must all be in the same room at the same time when you and the witnesses sign the will.
Does Tennessee require a notarized will?
No, you do not need to notarize your will for it to be legally valid. However, you can notarize a separate document to attach to your will. When a will is presented in the probate court, it must be validated. The court will call upon the witnesses to testify to its authenticity; they have to testify that you were of sound mind at the time of making the will and that you did not sign the will under any undue influence.
Instead, you can notarize a separate document. This is known as a “self-proving affidavit.” Like many other states, Tennessee allows you to “self-prove” your will.
To make your will “self-proved,” you and your witnesses make sworn statements before a notary public. These affidavits act as though you and your witnesses testified to the authenticity of your will before the court. Once you have these notarized affidavits, they can be used instead requiring the witnesses to testify. This is helpful if your witnesses have relocated, or if they have unfortunately died before you.
By “self-proving” your will, the court can automatically accept your will as valid—speeding up the probate process.
Can I name an executor in Tennessee?
Yes, you can name an executor when you make a will in Tennessee. You can name someone as the executor in a will you make online as well. An executor is the person appointed to settle the estate, making sure that the will is followed. Generally speaking, you want to name someone as the executor of your estate. Otherwise, the court will have to appoint someone (which can delay probate). You want to choose someone you know well, someone you trust; you want this person to be someone who is well-organized, responsible, and otherwise up to the task of being the executor.
Here are the requirements for an executor in Tennessee:
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Must not have been convicted of a felony.
- Must be of sound mind.
You also cannot name a judge as the executor of your estate, unless they are a family member and serving as the executor does not interfere with any judicial duties.
To name an executor who lives out-of-state, there are some specific guidelines in Tennessee:
- You can only name a nonresident executor if you also name an in-state co-executor. The nonresident executor must also appoint the secretary of state as an agent, allowing them to accept legal papers on behalf of your estate. In addition, the court may also require the nonresident executor to post a bond.
Do I need an attorney to make a will in Tennessee?
No, an attorney is not necessary to make a will. In some situations, though—for those who have a large or complex estate and a complicated will—it is always best to consult an estate planning attorney. But for those with a simple estate and a straightforward will, online will making is a good option. You want to make sure you use an online will making service that has state-specific templates, and you want to make sure you follow all the legal requirements for a will to be recognized as valid in Tennessee.
What types of wills are valid in Tennessee?
A will which meets all the state-specific requirements is a valid will in Tennessee, whether made online or otherwise.
Can I make a holographic will in Tennessee?
A holographic will is a type of will that is handwritten and signed by only the Testator (the person making the will). Tennessee does accept holographic wills under certain conditions. For a holographic will to be recognized by the court, it must:
- Have all the material provisions and the signature in the Testator’s handwriting.
- Have two witnesses that can prove the Testator’s handwriting.
While the court may accept a holographic will, it is often better to have a properly written and witnessed will. The process to validate a holographic will is generally more complicated, delaying probate. Often, people forget to include important provisions or use unclear language. A holographic will is much more easily contested.
Can I make a nuncupative or video will in Tennessee?
A nuncupative will is an oral will; some people wish to leave oral wills on video. While nuncupative wills are not ideal, they are allowed in Tennessee under certain conditions.
In Tennessee, a nuncupative will, or oral will, is allowed if:
- The Testator was in imminent peril of death and died as a result.
- The Testator must call upon two “disinterested witnesses” to hear the declaration of the will.
- One of the witnesses must reduce the nuncupative will to writing within 30 days, and
- It must be submitted to the probate court within 6 months of the Testator’s death.
- A nuncupative will is only valid for personal property that does not exceed $1,000, unless the Testator is an active member of the U.S. armed forces serving in time of war (which allows up to $10,000).
- A nuncupative cannot revoke or change any existing written will.
Like holographic wills, nuncupative wills often face delays during the probate process. If time and health allow, a written, witnessed, and legally binding will is much better for avoiding legal delays when settling the estate.
How is a living will different from an online will in Tennessee?
A living will, also called an advance directive, is a legal document which gives instructions on medical decisions and end-of-life care. It is not the same as a last will and testament. These are two separate documents. Whether you make a will online or otherwise, it is not the right place to leave medical directives or end-of-life care instructions. Typically, a will is not consulted until after the funeral and the process for settling the estate begins. There are also different requirements for a living will to be effective.
Instead, leave these instructions in a living will which should be given to the care of the named executor or another trusted individual. You can make both a last will and testament and a living will online. For more information on living wills in Tennessee, you can go here
In Tennessee, these are the requirements for a living will:
- Only competent adults may make a living will.
- It must be in writing, substantially following the form provided in Tennessee state law §32-11-105.
- It must be signed in the presence of 2 witnesses; neither witness may be related to the person making the living will.
Why do I need to make a will online in Tennessee?
Any time someone dies without a will, there are state laws that decide what happens. These are called intestacy laws. The state of Tennessee will appoint guardians for any minor children, and the court will also name someone to act as the executor of your estate. After which, the estate will be divided between surviving family members according to the intestacy distribution laws of the particular state. If the court exhausts all possibilities and determines you have no surviving family members, the state can take ownership of your estate. This can become a lengthy legal process; often, property can be held up in the probate court process for months or even years at a time.
If you own property, if you have minor children, or if you want to decide how to distribute your estate—it is important that you have a valid will.
What can I include in an online will in Tennessee?
Aside from appointing guardians for any minor children and naming an executor for the estate, you can include the following when you make a will in Tennessee (online or otherwise):
- Trusted person to oversee any property left to minor children.
- Trusted person to care for any remaining pets (you can also include a “pet trust” to provide financial assistance for their care).
- Leave property or gifts to specific people (family members, friends).
- Leave property or gifts to charities or organizations.
- Distribute family heirlooms and sentimental items.
- Distribute personal or sentimental items.
What should not be included in a will in Tennessee?
You should not include funeral arrangements, medical directives, or end-of-life care desires in a last will and testament. When you make a will in Tennessee and it is executed correctly, it must meet specific requirements. These are not the same requirements needed for legally binding medical directives or end-of-life care stipulations. You should also not include funeral arrangements in your will; usually, a will is not read until after the funeral, when the process to settle the estate begins. If you leave such instructions in the will, family members may not know about them until after the funeral.
To designate medical directives and end-of-life care, create a living will.
To leave your funeral directions, you can either make an informal document which describes your wishes for your funeral arrangements or you can simply talk to family members about your desires. If you make a document, be sure to give copies of it to the executor of your estate and/or other trusted family members.
Can I change or revoke an online will made in Tennessee?
As a will is a legally binding document (whether it is made online or not), it will be enforced by the court as long as it is a valid will. If you want to make changes or revoke a will, you have to do so in a certain way. You can change or revoke your will at any time.
In Tennessee, here are ways to change or revoke a will:
- You can physically destroy the will with the intent of revoking it by burning, tearing, shredding, obliterating, or otherwise destroying all or part of your will.
- You can order someone else to physically destroy the will in front of you.
- You can make another will that explicitly states it revokes all or part of the old will; you can also implicitly revoke a will by including contradictory terms in the new will.
- You can make another document, finalizing it in the same formalities as required for a will, that states it revokes the will.
It is a good idea to update the will after major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, adoption, or acquisition of significant assets which change the distribution of property, or relocation to another state or country. If you need to make major changes to the will, it is best to make a new will. To make only minor changes to a will, add an amendment called a codicil. A codicil must be finalized in the same way that the original will is finalized.
In Tennessee, certain changes in your life may also automatically revoke your will, requiring you to execute a new will—otherwise it will be as though you do not have a will at all. For example, if you get married and then have a child, your will is completely revoked. If you divorce, any language that leaves provisions to a former spouse is automatically revoked.
This is why it is wise to revisit your will after any major life change; be sure to revisit your will every few years or so as well, to make sure there are no changes you want to make.
How do I Finalize an online will in Tennessee?
Once you make a will in Tennessee, online or otherwise, be sure to follow these steps to finalize it:
- If you make it online, print it out. It must be in writing.
- Sign it in front of two witnesses, and
- Have the two witnesses sign it in front of you.
To make your will “self-proved” in Tennessee, you and your witnesses must make sworn statements attesting to the authenticity of the will in front of a notary public. Attach them to your will.
Be sure to consider these special considerations in Tennessee:
- Avoid using “interested” witnesses, as any provisions left to them may be rendered void by the court.
USLegalWills is our recommendation for an online last will and testament. Their pricing is fair and the process of making an online will is easy. You can also create a Living Will. USLegalWills offers a free service to document funeral wishes and save final messages for loved ones.