When someone is facing imminent death, he or she may decide to draft a
will, or tear up their old will and sign a new one – this is often
referred to as a “deathbed will.” Unfortunately, when someone
is weeks, days, or even hours from death, they may not be in the right
state of mind to carefully consider the provisions of their will and this
can make concerned family members question if the will-maker is making
A will made at the hospital can be as valid and binding as one made at
an attorney’s office if it’s executed according to Tennessee
law. For a deathbed will to be valid under Tennessee law, it must be:
- Signed by the will-maker in front of two witnesses.
- The witnesses must sign the will.
“Does a will need to be notarized to be considered legal and valid?”
No. Under Tennessee law, a will does not need to be notarized in order
to be valid. However, if a will-maker wants to speed up the
probate process, they need to make the will “self-proving” and in
order to do that, the will-maker, along with the witnesses, need to have
it notarized. With a self-proving will, the probate court can accept it
without contacting the witnesses who signed the document.
What if the Will-Maker is Being Controlled?
Tennessee does not have any laws governing when and where a will can be
drafted, so it’s not uncommon for people to sign deathbed wills
from their hospital beds or homes when they have days, if not hours to
live. Sometimes, a terminally ill person felt that creating a
will was morbid, or they meant to do it but never got around to it.
Others prepared a will, but circumstances in their lives changed and they
don’t want to bequeath their assets to the same beneficiaries, or
they want their assets distributed differently than they did before. Or,
a will-maker may realize that their will is outdated and they want to
revoke it and write a new one.
Whatever the will-maker’s reasons for changing their will, if the
deathbed will is executed according to state law, it is legally valid
and binding. But regardless of the circumstances, the new will has to
be signed by two witnesses. And these witnesses can be very important
to the probate court.
After the person’s death, if there is any question if the decedent
was under duress or unduly influenced by a beneficiary, the probate court
will call the witnesses to court and have them testify under oath about
what they saw when the person signed the deathbed will. Was the decedent
aware of what they were doing? Did the decedent know what he or she owned
and who the beneficiaries were? These are the types of questions the court
will ask of the witnesses.
I Think I Have a Will Contest
Have Questions About the Validity of a Will?
Do you have questions about the validity of a deathbed will, or any will?
Contact my firm to speak with a
Nashville probate attorney. While will contests are rare, they do happen, especially when someone
signed a deathbed will when they were unaware of what was happening or
being manipulated by an heir. A lawyer can help you understand the laws,
as well as your legal options.