Tennessee Standing Requirements for Will Contests

A will provides insight into a decedent’s final wishes, and a personal assessment of his or her personal relationships. If a person feels strongly that the contents of the will are invalid or that the will was procured by undue influence, then a will contest may be pursued under T.C.A. § 32-4-101 in the court holding proper jurisdiction.

Remember, however, that not just anyone can contest the validity of a will. An individual must have “standing” to contest. With a will contest, to have standing to sue, one must be either: 1) an individual who would take under the terms of another will or codicil; or 2) an individual who would have taken according to the laws of intestacy if there is a prior will to fall back on. An individual who holds the right to contest could proceed by filing the required materials with the court holding proper jurisdiction.

In the event a former will is being utilized to confer standing, the individual must have what the court deems to be a “substantial interest” to be served by the will contest. While the determination on what constitutes a substantial interest may vary, past Tennessee cases have demonstrated you need more than just an honorable mention in a prior will to have standing. For example, in Jolley v. Henderson (2004) the court said an interest of $10 under a former will was simply viewed as de minimis and was not enough to show there was standing to contest the will. By utilizing these procedures to establish standing, the law aims to encourage individuals to consider whether it is truly a worthwhile use of resources to right a wrong or if they would simply pursue a will contest out of spite.

Losing a loved one is difficult for anyone to endure, regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, the stress of that period can sometimes be increased when strife among friends and family over the contents of a loved one’s will leads to a will contest. To protect against additional discourse amongst family and friends, it is best to clearly delineate your intentions by having honest conversations with your loved ones and ensure your will is duly executed by a qualified attorney who clearly understands your final wishes.

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