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What is a last will and testament? And why do you need one?

February 13, 2018
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last will and testamentWhat is a will?

Also known as a last will and testament, a will is an important legal document that determines what happens to your property as well as your personal affairs following your death. It is important to have a will in place, no matter what your age or health, in order to protect your loved ones and your property in the chance of your death.

Having a will allows you, the testator, to ensure your wishes are carried out after your death. Some of the most common uses of a will include:

  • Naming an executor to carry out the terms of your will
  • Choosing a personal guardian who will care for any children that are minors
  • Selecting a trusted individual who can oversee property left to minor children
  • Dictating who you want your property to go to (including people, organizations, or charities)

What happens if you don’t have a will in Tennessee?

Having a will is not legally required in Tennessee, however, if you do not have a will in place at the time of your death, the state will determine what happens to your estate based on laws of intestacy. Based on these laws, the state will give your property to the relatives closest to you, starting with any children or a spouse, moving to more distant relatives. If the court determines that you do not have any living relatives, your property will be given to the state. Since these intestacy laws will not necessarily align with your personal wishes regarding your property and affairs, it is important to prepare a last will and testament.

What else does a will allow me to do?

In addition to naming an executor, determining who your property will go to, selecting guardians for any minor children, and choosing someone to oversee any property left to minors, a will can be used to carry out other wishes regarding your estate. Some additional uses of a will include making a charitable gift to an organization, setting up a trust for a relative or loved one, and even providing for the care of a pet.

Are there requirements for a will in Tennessee?

In order to create a will in the state of Tennessee, the testator must be 18 years of age or older and of sound mind. The document must also be signed by the testator as well as two witnesses in order to finalize the document but is not required to be notarized. However, if you want to speed up the probate process following your death you can get your will notarized, which will make it “self proving.” This simply means that the probate court can accept your will without reaching out to the witnesses, which simplifies probate.

Although Tennessee typically requires that wills are written, the state also recognizes holographic wills (handwritten) as well as nuncupative wills (oral) if they meet specific requirements.


In Tennessee, the last will and testament of the deceased must be verified by a probate court before it can be carried out by the executor of the will. Once the court confirms that the will is valid, the executor can then carry out the wishes of the decedent, which can include distributing assets, paying debts, and collecting/protecting property.

For estates that are less than $25,000, the state of Tennessee has a more simplified process which can start 45 days after the death of the decedent. This period can also be waived depending on the circumstances.

If you or a loved one are writing a last will and testament and want the assistance of an experienced attorney, contact Ken Phillips Law today. Our team has years of experience working with clients’ estate planning documents such as wills, living wills, and power of attorney, and are here to make the process quick and easy. Protect yourself and your loved ones by creating a last will and testament today.

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