Supreme Courts Holds That Signing Affidavit Not Same As Signing Will

Friday, November 16, 2012

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that signing an affidavit of attesting witnesses is not the same as signing a will.  In the case before the Court, Mr. Thomas Grady Chastain signed a one-page affidavit of attesting witnesses but failed to sign his separate two-page will. After Mr. Chastain’s death, his daughter filed a petition to probate the unsigned will and attached the signed affidavit of attesting witnesses. Several of Mr. Chastain’s relatives asked the court to declare the unsigned will invalid. 

The trial court ruled that Mr. Chastain’s signature on the affidavit was not enough to satisfy a state law requiring his signature on the will.  By a two to one vote, the Court of Appeals reversed and found Mr. Chastain’s signature on the affidavit sufficient to validate his will.

The Tennessee Supreme Court granted review and held that Mr. Chastain’s signature on the separate affidavit of attesting witnesses does not satisfy a seventy-one-year-old state law requiring his signature on the two-page will. The Court explained: “Statutes requiring the observance of formalities in the execution of wills are designed to prevent fraud, mistakes, and uncertainty in the testamentary dispositions of property.  Enforcing strict compliance with such statutory formalities is intended to preserve ‘the inviolability’ and ‘sanctity’ of a testator’s right to dispose of property by will.” 

The Court declined to relax Tennessee’s laws regarding the execution of wills, explaining that “the Legislature is the entity authorized to prescribe the conditions by which property may be transferred by will in this State, and courts have no authority to modify those conditions. 

To read the In re Estate of Chastain opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit TNCourts.gov.

 


Drug Take Back Scheduled For Dec. 6

Tennessee American Water, Walgreens,  the Hamilton County Coalition and the Hamilton County Sheriff Department announced that a special Drug Take Back will be Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Drug Take Back will take place at two Walgreens stores that in the past have not participated.  Feedback from area residents whose homes are close to these Walgreens locations ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Business Calendar Nov. 29 to Dec. 6

MO/1 Reality Check - Bethel Christian Academy 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Bethel Christian Academy: 3001 Hamill Rd. Reality Check teaches 9th graders budgeting and emphasizes the connection between education and income by allowing students to role-play as heads of household while trying to provide for their families on a set budget. Community volunteers are needed to assist ... (click for more)

1 Dies, 1 Critically Injured In North Chattanooga House Fire

For the second time in three days, a house fire has resulted in tragedy with a 35-year-old woman dying and a man critically injured in North Chattanooga. At 10:13 a.m. on Wednesday, Chattanooga firefighters were dispatched to a reported house fire with entrapment at 220 Houser St. The first firefighters on the scene saw flames shooting out windows and part of the roof. Having ... (click for more)

Appeal Dropped In $25 Million Lawsuit Filed Against Hennen's Restaurant By Lisa Barnes

An appeal has been dropped of a Circuit Court jury verdict that found Hennen's Restaurant not at fault in a $25 million lawsuit brought by Lisa Barnes. Circuit Court officials said the appeal was "voluntarily" dropped. It had been set to be reviewed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The verdict in the courtroom of Judge Neil Thomas in early February came at the end of ... (click for more)

Lawlessness At Heritage Park

As a frequent visitor at Heritage Park in East Brainerd, I must say that the situation is becoming slightly out of control.  To start, parking is atrocious.  The unpaved lot contains nothing but loose gravel which has naturally given way to divots in the ground assuring you a few bumps.  Why isn't this area smoothed out?  It's not worth parking there anyways ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Grand Thanksgiving Feast

I’m not really sure how it all came about but a few days before Thanksgiving last year, what was usually a crowded table had dwindled down to just Mother, Aunt Martha and me. Just the idea of getting dressed up made both of them tired, which happens when you are 89 and 87, respectively, and the thought of preparing the traditional feast brought only further groans so I announced ... (click for more)