Tennessee Will Declared Invalid Because of Improper Witness Signatures

When someone you love passes away, you may inherit property, money, or other possession if that person names you in a will. If there is no will, then a court may decide who gets to have what and you may get little to no say. It is not only important to have a will though, it is also important that you follow all the rules and guidelines about making sure a will is valid in your state. This is why if you are wanting to have a will drafted, it is a good idea to talk to a estate planning lawyer with the Higgins Firm. We will answer any questions or concerns you may and help you to draft a will that protects your property and loved ones even if you no longer around.

In a recent case, the Court of Appeals found a Will was invalid after one of the decedent’s heirs filed a will contest alleging that the decedent’s will was not properly executed.  Specifically, the heir argued that because the will was not signed by witnesses according to the law the Will should be thrown out.   Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-1-104 requires that the testator and at least two witnesses sign a will any non-holographic will.

The decedent signed the second page of the will and then immediately after the testator’s signature began on the same page an “affidavit” of the witnesses, which continued onto a third page where the two witnesses signed the affidavit. The two witnesses signed the affidavit but did not sign any other section of the will. The appellate court ruled that the witnesses, therefore, did not actually sign the will. They signed a self-proving affidavit under a separate statute, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-2-110. Since the witnesses did not sign the will itself, the will was not valid due to improper execution and the decedent died without having a valid will.

If a person dies without a valid will a Tennessee court will decide how the estate gets distributed. If a person wants to contest a will, the three common grounds they may have to do so include improper execution, like in this particular case, lack of capacity, or undue influence. In Tennessee, a will is only valid if it is signed by the testator and two witnesses. The witnesses must sign the will while the testator is present. If it is contested that someone lacked the capacity to make a will, the court will take into consideration the testator’s physical health when the will was executed and their age and mental state. Finally, if a claim of undue influence is made, meaning that someone is accusing someone else of making a person create a will that benefits them, the whole will or a part of it may be determined to be invalid.

When a will is contested, there may be other technical issues to consider such as the lawyer who helped draft a will may be asked to testify or the will may state that anyone who wants to challenge the will may have to forfeit their right to any benefits they may receive.

Since there are specific laws in Tennessee concerning wills and different reasons a person may contest a will, it is crucial that a will be drafted and executed properly. In order to make sure that your will is valid when you pass away, you should consider speaking to an experienced and caring estate planning lawyer at the Higgins Firm. We will help you to make sure that your will is valid and we will also discuss with you any other options you may have to help you take care of your family and loved ones in the future.

You can contact us online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your options and any questions you might have.