When making a will in Tennessee, many people mistakenly distribute assets in invalid ways. While wills are a popular tool for estate planning that gives decedents the ability to determine how to pass on their assets to loved ones, writing a will should be carefully planned to avoid making judgments that a court will later overrule.
As FindLaw explains, wills can be useful, but there are some assets over which they have no control, and there are other assets which they may only control through careful planning during the creation process.
In Tennessee, many forms of will are valid, even some that other states do not recognize. For example, it is one of a few states that recognizes oral and holographic wills. Tennesseans should, however, only use these means as a last resort. Whenever possible, it is best to create a will with legal advice and then have at least two disinterested witnesses sign it.
Limits of wills
The American Bar Association explains that valid wills are legally binding and can be powerful estate planning tools, but they are unable to distribute property that is in a trust or that is jointly owned with other parties. They also have no power over certain benefits such as retirement or life insurance plans. These assets have established purposes that override the power of a will.
Similarly, disinheriting family members in a will may be a way of offending them, but it will hold little water in court. In Tennessee, as in many other states, heirship laws bar decedents from disinheriting spouses and certain family members. This means that surviving spouses have the right to claim a certain portion of the decedent’s property regardless of whether the will includes it. Unmarried children also may have the right to a reasonable allowance from the estate even if the decedent disinherited them in their will.
Planning a will carefully can help to avoid these pitfalls and establish a more robust plan for distributing an estate after death. The most compelling estate plans include wills in concert with other estate planning tools like trusts.