Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Tennessee wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with you, the testator (the person making the will), to create valid Tennessee wills and to assign a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Tennessee last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Tennessee Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions).
Signature: A Tennessee last will and testament must be signed by the testator, or by some other person under the testator's direction in the testator's presence, in front of a notary.
Witnesses: At least 2 witnesses (who are not beneficiaries) are required for a valid Tennessee last will and testament by subscribing their names to the will, or by signing an affidavit, while in the presence of the testator and at the testator's direction or request.
Writing: A Tennessee last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Tennessee last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic Wills: A holographic will is one that is handwritten by the testator. Handwritten wills must be witnessed to be valid. Although Tennessee law recognizes a handwritten will, state laws can be very particular regarding handwritten wills. Handwritten wills that are not properly witnessed are invalid in Tennessee
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, Tennessee laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's Tennessee wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Tennessee wills form may be create a trust and designate a trustee to handle an estate (property left after death) on behalf of children or others.
Our Tennessee wills form may also be used to name an executor to handle a decedent's (the person who died) property and affairs from the time of death until an estate is settled.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Jointly owned property with the rights of survivorship automatically passes onto the survivor.
A one-half share of the community property passes to the surviving spouse.
Omitted Spouse: If a will fails to name or provide for a spouse, the spouse must receive a portion of the testator's estate as provided by Tennessee law, unless it appears either from the will or from other evidence that the omission was intentional.
Omitted Child: If a will fails to name or provide for a child, the child must receive a portion of the decedent's estate as provided by Tennessee law, unless it appears either from the will or from other evidence that the omission was intentional.
Providing for Pets
Under applicable Tennessee state laws, a trust for the care of your pets is valid as an "honorary trust", which means it is up to the discretion of the trustee you name to enforce it. The trust allows you to assign a proper caretaker for your pet(s) after your death. The trust terminates upon either the death of your pet, any conditions you state in your will or 21 years after your death, whichever happens first. LegalZoom gives you the choice to provide for your pets using our Tennessee wills form.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Tennessee Will and Testament
A Tennessee will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Tennessee will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Tennessee probate laws.
Revoking a Tennessee Will and Testament
A Tennessee will and testament, or any part thereof, can be revoked:
By a subsequent will that revokes, or partially revokes, the prior will expressly or by conflicting or different parts; or
By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the same, by the testator or by another person in the presence and by the direction of the testator.
By both the subsequent marriage and the birth of a child of the testator (but divorce or annulment of the subsequent marriage does not revive the revoked will).
Revocation of a will in its entirety revokes its codicils, unless revocation of a codicil would be contrary to the testator's intent.
Probate and Estate Taxes
Probate is a legal process for starting the transfer of property when the testator dies. The procedures validate the Tennessee last will and determine ownership of the property. Property that does not pass via community property, right of survivorship, trust, or insurance is subject to probate proceedings.
After the Tennessee last will is admitted at court, the executor files applications for the probate of a will and for legal documents called letters testamentary.
Several important functions of probate proceedings include:
Collecting, or taking possession of, the decedent's property.
Protecting and preserving the decedent's estate.
Paying all debts, claims and taxes.
Determining who is entitled to the assets and distributing the property according to the Tennessee last will.
Every estate may be subject to federal and Tennessee death taxes, depending on the value of assets included in the taxable estate. The federal tax is based on the value of assets in the taxable estate. The Tennessee estate tax is equal to the state death tax credit allowed on the federal tax return. Filing a Tennessee estate tax return does not increase the total tax liability of the estate, but instead redirects revenues to the state which would go to the federal government. Generally, if no federal estate tax is due, then no Tennessee estate tax is due either.
It is extremely important to make a Tennessee will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die before you make a Tennessee will (or other valid will), you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Tennessee state laws.
The net estate (after paying debts, taxes, administrative costs, and funeral expenses) of a decedent is distributed to the surviving spouse and other heirs in adherence to Tennessee state laws.
For example, without creating a valid will, if you die leaving a spouse, 2 children, and no parents with the following:
$1,000 in administrative costs
$10,000 in debt
$2,000 in funeral expenses
$50,000 in the bank
An automobile gift from your great-uncle
The net estate here would be $37,000 in assets, the house, and the automobile as separate property. Your surviving spouse would get the house if it was jointly owned or considered community property. The automobile would be half owned by the spouse, and the children would get a 1/4 share each. The $37,000 would most likely be considered community property and therefore your spouse would receive all of it.
If you make a Tennessee will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.