Revocation of a Will by Marriage, Divorce or Birth of a Child

When navigating the estate planning process, many individuals have questions regarding the durability of their wills and wonder how often they should be updating their documents. In considering these questions, take inventory of recent life events that may have occurred after a will’s execution as some of these milestones can trigger automatic revocation of a will.

Under Tennessee law, there are certain events that may trigger a revocation: the execution of a new will which revokes prior wills, the physical destruction of the will, or the utilization of a document of revocation. In certain situations Tennessee law also allows for a subsequent marriage and birth of a child to trigger revocation of a will. Therefore, if a Tennessee resident executes a valid will and later marries and has children, then the previously executed will, under certain circumstances, may be partially or entirely revoked.

Divorce or annulment of a subsequent marriage does not revive a prior will. An individual cannot simply revert back to his old will by divorcing his new spouse. But rather, divorce can act as a triggering event for revocation. Under T.C.A. §32-1-202, a dissolution of a marriage or annulment revokes any disposition of property, and any appointment powers or nomination as executor, guardian, trustee, etc. made by the will to the former spouse, unless the will expressly provides otherwise.

The law regarding the automatic revocation of a will upon certain events is to protect the interests of the testator, but also to protect his or her future spouses and children. To ensure you have a valid will, and one that remains updated to reflect your wishes regarding your current familial situation, it is necessary to always keep a list of these triggering events in the back of your mind. If you have experienced a change in your family status since the execution of your will or are unsure of the validity of your current will based on recent circumstances, it is best to discuss the potential effects of these events regarding your personal estate plan to ensure your loved ones remain cared for and your assets remain protected.

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