You knew that you wanted to take steps to protect your family and your assets in the event of your death, so you created a will. It is the most basic part of an estate plan. The information that a will contains can ensure your final wants and wishes are honored; that is, of course, if you properly execute your will.
What does properly executed mean? Doesn't just signing a will make it a legally binding document? In the state of Tennessee, signing a will does make it a valid document, if and only if it is signed -- also referred to as properly executed -- in the right way.
Tennessee laws regarding will signatures
According to the laws of Tennessee, in order for a will to be valid in the eyes of the law, the testator -- the individual making the will -- and two witnesses must sign it. All three of these individuals must sign the document in each other's presence. So, this means:
- The testator cannot sign the document and then present it to witnesses at a later date for them to sign.
- The witnesses must actually sign the document, not just watch the testator sign it.
- If only one witness signs the document, it will not be valid.
- If the testator fails to sign the will, it will not be valid.
The state does not require a notary to witness the signatures. It also does not require that the testator and witnesses initial each page of the will. However, doing these things can help establish validity if someone ever questions your will.
What happens if one dies without a valid will?
If you die without a valid will, the state does not have to consider your wishes. The courts will get to decide what happens to your estate. The courts will get to decide who will be in charge of administering your estate. In other words, you lose your voice.
Changing a will
If you wish to modify your will or scrap it and start over, you can certainly do so. Again, you will need to make sure it you properly execute your will for the modifications or new will to be legally binding.
If you take the time to create a will, which everyone should, do not let your time and effort go to waste by failing to ensure your will is properly signed. Skipping this vital step will only hurt your loved ones in the end.