A last will and testament is generally valid if it meets certain statutory requirements. In an August 15, 2017 Tennessee estate case, the son of the decedent contested the validity of the will submitted into probate for his father. The affidavit attached to the purported will was signed, in the presence of the testator, by two witnesses. After a hearing, the trial court held that the will and accompanying affidavit were not in strict compliance with the statute and denied admission of the will to probate. The proponent of the will, the decedent’s wife, appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee.
In Tennessee, a will must be signed by the testator and at least two witnesses. The testator must signify to the witnesses that it is his will and either sign the will, acknowledge that he already signed the will, or have someone else sign his name while in the testator’s presence. The witnesses must then sign in the presence of the testator and each other.
In 2016, the Tennessee legislature amended the law to allow for a separate affidavit containing the witnesses’ signatures to be integrated into a will executed prior to July 1, 2016, as long as the signatures were made at the same time as the testator signed the will. If the witnesses signed the affidavit on the same day as the testator, it is presumed that they signed at the same time, unless there is convincing evidence otherwise.