When thinking about a Last Will and Testament, most people have a basic idea that a Will is a legal document that directs where their property goes after they pass away.
Generally speaking, this is true, but there are certain legal requirements and basic ingredients that make up a Will.
First, the Testator (the person who signs the Will) must be at least eighteen years old and of sound mind, according to Tennessee Code Section 32-1-102. Second, the Will must be signed by the Testator. Third, there must be two independent witnesses who sign the document in the presence of the Testator and in the presence of each other.
It is also important for a Will in Tennessee to contain a Self-Proving Affidavit, according to Tennessee Code Section 32-2-110. This affidavit should be signed by the witnesses, preferably at the time the Will is signed by the testator. The affidavit verifies, among other things, that the witnesses saw the testator sign the document, the testator was of sound mind, not under any undue influence, and over the age of eighteen years. It is important that this Affidavit be properly drafted in order to ensure that the witnesses do not have to attend court to testify upon the probate of the Will.
A Will normally contains several other provisions, such as family information, who the executor is, what people will serve as guardian for any minor children, specific gifts of property, and where the rest of the estate will go. It may also contain one or more trusts, enabling the testator to control how funds are used until children or other beneficiaries reach a certain age.
Another important factor to remember is that for any property, beneficiary designations supersede what is written in a Will. Therefore, it is important that your financial assets are coordinated with your estate plan, to ensure that your property passes where you wish. This is true for all people, regardless of how large or small their estate may be.