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Drafting and executing a will can be tricky business

Whenever you draft your will without the help of an attorney, you run the risk of problems later on down the road. In the worst cases, the will gets challenged after you die by a disgruntled family member, and it gets completely nullified. This is an outcome you definitely want to avoid.

The term "execute a will" refers to the signing of your will in a way that makes it a legally binding document. When a will is "legally binding" it means that its terms and conditions will be carried out to the letter under state court guidelines.

One small error during the execution of a will could spell disaster for your estate. For example, a recent Tennessee case resulted in the invalidation of a will because it was not appropriately executed. In this case, the decedent's child challenged the validity of the will. Even though the testator -- or the person who wrote the will -- signed the document clearly and legibly, the witnesses of the will did not sign the document.

In Tennessee, every will requires two witnesses to sign the document for it to be valid. Tennessee law also allows for a "self-proving affidavit" to be signed by the witnesses and notarized, so that witnesses don't need to appear in probate court to testify as to the validity of the will. The problem in the above case was that the witnesses signed the self-proving affidavit, but not the will itself. This was enough to nullify the entire document so that the testator's asset dispensation plan and other wishes were not followed.

A Tennessee estate planning lawyer is essential in ensuring that your best-laid estate plans never lie in ruin. Be sure to go over the specifics of your needs and desires with your legal counselor to devise the most appropriate legal strategies to suit your needs.

Source: Huffington Post, "Is Your Will Properly Signed and Witnessed?," Brad Reid, accessed March 28, 2017

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