A Strong Offense
A Stronger Defense
Just how strictly does Tennessee construe the formalities relating to the execution of a will? Very. In In re Estate of Bill Morris, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee considered what it meant for the witnesses to sign the will. In this case, the decedent’s son filed a will contest claiming that the decedent’s will was not properly executed because the will was not signed by witnesses as required by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-1-104. This statute requires the testator and at least two witnesses to sign the will.
The decedent signed the second page of the will and immediately following the testator’s signature began on the same page an “affidavit” of the witnesses, which continued onto a third page where the two witnesses signed the affidavit. While the two witnesses signed the affidavit, they did not sign any other part of the will. The appellate court ruled that the witnesses, therefore, did not “sign” the will. Instead, what they had signed was a self-proving affidavit under a separate statute, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-2-110. Thus, the witnesses did not sign the will itself, the will was invalid as improperly executed, and the decedent died intestate.