It’s hard to lose a loved one, no matter what their age or the circumstances. Things can get even harder, however, when the deceased didn’t leave a will. So, finding a handwritten will among your loved one’s personal papers may have been a huge relief — if it’s valid.
Unlike many other states, Tennessee permits handwritten (“holographic”) wills — but only if the right legal requirements are met. To be considered valid:
- All the material provisions of the will must be handwritten
- The will must bear the testator’s signature
- Two witnesses must affirm that the will is in the testator’s handwriting
That sounds easy enough, but it’s even easier to run into problems. For example, your loved one may have typed their will out on a typewriter or computer to make it easier to read and then signed it — which means that the material provisions aren’t in their handwriting. Or, maybe your loved one wrote the whole will out and signed it “Dad,” or “Uncle Jim,” instead of with their actual signature. Again, that would make the will invalid.
It may not even be easy to find two people who will agree that the handwriting belonged to the deceased. Some people don’t want to get involved in a dispute between family members, while others may refuse to acknowledge the writing simply because they don’t like the contents of the will.
If you’ve just found a handwritten will and are unsure what it may mean for an estate, don’t try to figure it out on your own. Talk to an attorney who understands the challenges families may face when someone’s final wishes are unclear.