mail phone icon615-791-8511

Do you need a witness when signing your Last Will and Testament in TN?

In the event of your death, you can ensure that your property is distributed as you please. However, this requires the use of an estate planning tool.

A will is a commonly used document. A will allows for the distribution of the property as you choose in the event of your death. It allows you to provide for those who otherwise would not be able to receive an inheritance under state laws, such as stepchildren or friends, if you died without a will. In a will, you will designate an executor of your estate or a guardian for a minor child.

However, you need to ensure that your will is executed properly.

You can handwrite your own will – all in your handwriting from start to finish and signed – and it is legal as a holographic will. There do not have to be any witnesses to sign it when you do. But in probate, it will be necessary to prove the authenticity of the testator’s handwriting, though; and this requires two witnesses who are familiar with the testator’s handwriting to testify.

However, there can be many problems with doing a handwritten will, such as you may write something that is not clear, or there may be other legal issues with what you’ve written. So, getting legal advice and having an attorney prepare your Will is much preferred.

If your will is typed, then there are legal requirements for witnesses and the execution of the will in order for it to be legal in Tennessee.  Here is what you need to know.

What the Law Says

According to Tenn. Code § 32-1-104, the will must be signed by the person making the will (also known as the testator) and two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be just anybody nearby, though. The witnesses cannot be “interested” people. This means that they cannot be possible heirs to the estate or stand to inherit anything from the testator upon their death. Based on this, family members and even some friends likely would not be allowed to be witnesses to the will.

The witnesses must also meet standard competency requirements, meaning that they are over the age of 18 and be of sound mind. Therefore, a mentally disabled person could not serve as a witness, nor could a child.

Once the testator chooses their two witnesses, they all must meet together so they can sign the will in the presence of each other. One person cannot sign the will by themselves. All three people must be present. If one person signs the will without the other being present, the will is invalid. Tennessee requires strict compliance with these rules.

A will can be a powerful estate planning tool, but only if it’s done properly. Make sure you get the right legal help.

Contact Brentwood estate planning lawyer Judy A. Oxford, Attorney at Law, for help creating your will and other estate planning documents. I have more than 30 years of experience. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 or contact me online to schedule a brief initial consultation.