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What You Need to Know about Contesting a Will in Tennessee

Following the death of a loved one, most people go through a complex and emotional grieving process. The legal and practical ramifications of the decedent’s passing, however, must also be addressed. Typically, this involves probating the estate using the terms of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. What happens if you are concerned about the validity of that Will? You may be entitled to challenge the Will through a Tennessee Will contest. To prepare you for that possibility, a Murfreesboro estate planning attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains what you need to know about contesting a Will in Tennessee.

What Does It Mean to Challenge a Will in Tennessee?

When a person passes away, the estate undergoes the legal process referred to as “probate.” The ultimate goal of probate is to distribute assets toSmyrna probation violations attorney beneficiaries or heirs of the estate. Before this, however, the decedent’s Last Will and Testament must be authenticated. “Contesting” a Will in Tennessee involves challenging its validity during the probate process.

Requirements for a Valid Last Will and Testament in Tennessee

Under Tennessee law, a Last Will and Testament to be considered valid in the State of Tennessee, the following must all be true:

  • The Testator must be at least 18 years old.
  • The Testator must be of sound mind.
  • The Testator must have voluntarily signed the Will.
  • The Will must be signed in front of two disinterested witnesses.

Who Can Contest a Will in Tennessee?

Despite what many people are led to believe, not everyone can contest a Will. In Tennessee, you must have “standing” to contest a Will. Standing means you have the legal right to initiate and participate in the litigation. Only an “interested person” has “standing” to initiate a Will contest in Tennessee, typically referring to a beneficiary of the Will submitted for probate, a beneficiary named in a previous or allegedly subsequent Will, a legal heir, or a creditor of the estate. 

Is There a Time Limit for Contesting a Will in Tennessee?

If you are contemplating a Will contest in Tennessee it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible because there is a two year time limit within which you must initiate a Will contest. The time frame usually begins when the Will is admitted to probate. 

Spousal Elective Share in Tennessee

Tennessee law provides a spouse the option to take an “elective share” of the estate that may make the need to contest a Will unnecessary. The elective-share percentage depends on the length of the marriage as follows:

  • Less than 3 years: 10% of the net estate
  • 3 years but less than 6 years: 20% of the net estate
  • 6 years but less than 9 years: 30% of the net estate
  • 9 years or more: 40% of the net estate

Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will in Tennessee

To contest a Will in Tennessee, you must allege (and ultimately prove to be successful) specific legal grounds on which the Will could be declared invalid. You cannot simply contest a Will because you are unhappy with your inheritance (or lack thereof) under the terms of the Will. Grounds on which a Will could be declared invalid in Tennessee include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud, improper execution, revocation by a subsequent Will, or problems with execution of the Will.

How Do I Initiate a Will Contest in Tennessee?

Contesting a Will is similar to other types of civil litigation, requiring the contestant to file a petition with the court, stating the grounds for contesting the Will, to initiate the litigation. The parties then proceed with civil discovery and typically attempt to negotiate a settlement. The estate’s Executor, named in the Will, is charged with defending the Will throughout the litigation. If no settlement is reached, the matter goes to trial, where success invalidates the Will, leading to the estate being administered as an intestate estate if no alternative valid Will is found. If the contestant is unsuccessful, probate will resume, following the terms of the original Will submitted to the court for probate.

Contact a Murfreesboro Will Lawyer

If you have additional questions or concerns about contesting a Will in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro will lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

 

Stan Bennett
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