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Are holographic wills still legal in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Estate Planning |

A will is one of the most basic estate planning documents that all individuals need to draft. Unlike some states, Tennessee law recognizes handwritten, or holographic, wills that were written by the individual (testator), even with unwitnessed signatures. 

But to get them legally admitted, the sections of the will dealing with the material provisions and the testator’s signatures must be proven to match by two witnesses familiar with the testator’s handwriting.

Other types of Tennessee wills

A nuncupative, or “oral” will may also be valid in some very specific circumstances. First, the testator must have been in “impending peril” of death and made a spoken declaration of their intent, as witnessed by two disinterested witnesses. Those witnesses must then submit the declarations within 30 days and file it with probate in the six months after the testator dies. Additionally, substantial limitations are placed on the property dispensed via these types of wills.

So, that’s it?

Often, unfortunately not. If you are trying to give your heirs a break, don’t try to do it by writing a holographic will. For one, they and nuncupative wills can be challenged in court with allegations of undue influence and fraud and take years to settle.

Also, most holographic wills lack the specific details a professionally drafted will includes. Instead of a testator listing who they want to have “Mama and Daddy’s piece on top of the hill,” it is far better to include the surveyor’s description of the property in question.

Getting it right limits a court fight

If you want to give the greatest gift of all to your survivors, leave them with estate documents that are clear and concise.