How does an individual revoke a will under Tennessee law?

Posted on Mar 1 2013 9:31AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

In Tennessee a will or any part of a will can be revoked by the testator under certain circumstances.  T.C.A. § 32-1-201 provides as follows:


A will or any part thereof is revoked by:

(1) A subsequent will, other than a nuncupative will, that revokes the prior will or part expressly or by inconsistency;

(2) Document of revocation, executed with all the formalities of an attested will or a holographic will, but not a nuncupative will, that revokes the prior will or part expressly;

(3) Being burned, torn, cancelled, obliterated or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking it, by the testator or by another person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction; or

(4) Both the subsequent marriage and the birth of a child of the testator, but divorce or annulment of the subsequent marriage does not revive a prior will.


As a result, there are four basic ways to revoke a will.  (1) Subsequent will; (2) Document revoking the prior will (must be executed with formalities of will execution); (3) Destroy the will with intent to revoke; (4) Subsequent marriage and the birth of a child. 


When drafting a will it is always best to make sure that the will explicitly states that all prior wills and codicils to any wills are revoked by the execution of the subsequent will.  If a testator truly desires to revoke a will, the testator should do this expressly in a subsequently drafted will document that is properly executed under Tennessee law.  It is not good practice to simply rely upon the trashing or destruction of a will because “intent” must exist and that can certainly cause disagreements between potential heirs. 

One other provision that may not be considered very often is subpart (4) which provides that a subsequent marriage and the birth of a child of the testator revokes a prior will.  Overall it is best to have a Tennessee wills attorney assist you with any revocation of a will document.  This should be done in conjunction with the drafting of a new will.

TAGS: Holographic Will, Wills, Execution
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com