I Have a Living Will in Tennessee So I Don’t Need a Will, Right? Wrong…

There is a common misconception with the public that a living will in Tennessee serves the same purpose as a will in Tennessee. As you will see below this couldn’t be further from the truth…


The most common and well-known estate-planning instrument is the will. A will is an individual’s written directions for the transfer of his or her property upon death. A will must be executed as required by law in order to be valid. Everyone should have a will, regardless of whether or not your assets are of significant value. If you die without a will you are said to die “intestate” and your assets will pass according to Tennessee intestacy law. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s intestate distribution scheme is typically more expensive to administer and usually does not distribute your property in the way you would choose to do so at your death.

A simple will is commonly understood to be a will that does not contain any tax or trust-planning provisions. However, don’t be fooled by the designation of “simple” because numerous considerations go into drafting all wills regardless of the complexity involved. A common example of a simple will is what is known as an “I love you will” which leaves everything to your spouse, if surviving; otherwise, to your children in equal shares. Is a simple will right for you and your family? A reputable attorney whose practice focuses on estate planning can help you with this determination.

Living Wills

Through a living will every person has the basic and natural right to die with as much dignity as possible and to control heroic measures and treatment that keep you alive when you are terminally ill and you are not able to tell your doctor about your wishes. A living will in Tennessee is a legal document that allows a competent person to accept, refuse, stop, or otherwise decide about medical care, especially treatment that keeps him or her alive when the person’s condition is terminal. Medical care means any procedure for diagnosis or treatment. This may be surgery, drugs, transfusions, mechanical breathing, dialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), artificial or forced feeding and radiation therapy.

A living will goes into effect only when you become incapacitated and remains in effect only as long as you cannot tell your doctor about your wishes. In Tennessee you may revoke your living will any time by telling your doctor or by signing a written revocation.

Andra Hedrick is an attorney with GSRM. She assists clients in preparing estate plans best suited to carry out their wishes. Andra regularly appears in probate court in contested and uncontested cases involving estates, conservatorships and trusts. 

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