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When is an oral will acceptable in Tennessee

In the last blog post, we talked about holographic wills and when these may or may not be accepted by the court. Essentially, a holographic will relates to a will that's handwritten -- and it may or may not have witnesses. This week, we'll discuss the "noncupative will" -- which is a special kind of an oral will. As you can expect, an oral record is not the best for the purposes of clarity, nor is it the best for the purposes of withstanding challenges in court. Nevertheless, in select circumstances, it could be the only thing that a Tennessee court has to go on.

Here are the circumstances that generally must be present in order for a Tennessee court to certify an oral will:

  • The noncupative will must be made by a testator (a person who creates the will) who is imminently in peril.
  • The noncupative will only becomes valid when the testator dies from said peril.
  • The noncupative will must be spoken in front of two witnesses who do not benefit from the will.
  • The noncupative will should be transmitted into writing by one of the two witnesses either written by the witness him or herself, or by someone acting as the agent of the witness, within 30 days of death.
  • The transmitted noncupative will must be filed with the probate court within six months of the testator's death.
  • The noncupative will only functions for personal property that doesn't exceed $1,000. However, if the testator is active in the military during a time of war, then it will function up to a limit of $10,000.
  • A noncupative will cannot change or revoke the legal status of a written will.

It's not often that a Tennessee court will see a noncupative will presented in probate proceedings. However, if your deceased loved one's estate involves such a will, it's imporant that you fully understand your legal inheritance rights.

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