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  • Writer's pictureCook Tillman

What not to put in your will

Anyone of sound mind can create their own will fairly easily. To make a legally binding will in Tennessee, you must put your wishes in writing and get the document signed by two witnesses. These witnesses should not be beneficiaries, and they should be in your – and each other’s – presence at the time of signing. Then you sign and date it. If you draft your will by hand – known as a holographic will – then the witness requirements are slightly different.

Although making a will may be simple, it’s still possible to make mistakes in your will – which could impact the possibility of fulfilling your wishes once you’re gone. In this post, we examine a few common errors of self-made wills:

  1. Leaving funeral directives: In most cases, your funeral will happen within a few days after you pass away. Typically, the will is read after the funeral takes place, so leaving instructions regarding your funeral wishes won’t serve you if they’re embedded in your will. Instead, create a separate document with your funeral wishes, and leave it with your executor or a family member.

  2. Distributing life insurance or retirement benefits: When you first set up a retirement account or life insurance plan, you’ll be prompted to designate a beneficiary at that time. It’s not possible to leave life insurance or retirement benefits to loved ones in your will.

  3. Leaving inheritance to your pet: Under Tennessee law, animals are not permitted to own property, and therefore they can’t inherit any gifts you designate in your will. However, you can set up a pet trust to ensure that your pet is cared for once you’re gone.

These are just a few common mistakes that could throw a wrench in your plans to provide for your loved ones. It’s worth having a legal professional look over any will you draft yourself to ensure that it’s legally grounded.


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