By Jedidiah McKeehan
Occasionally, in my travels through the internet I will come across an article that lists out quirky laws that exist in different places. This might be hard to believe, but Tennessee has some quirky laws that are still on the books.
One of them that comes to mind is Tennessee Code Annotated section 32-1-111. That law states, “Married women, after February 15, 1941, may dispose of their property by will…wills executed on or before February 15, 1941, by married women twenty-one years of age or over, are valid to dispose of their realty or personalty, legal or equitable, in as complete manner as if executed by femes sole.”
Okay, so apparently it required an actual law being passed to allow married women to dispose of their property by will when they passed. Reading between the lines, it would appear that before that time all property that a married woman would own would be considered the property of their husband and therefore the married woman would have no need for a will, or be able to dispose of their possessions by will.
Perhaps some of my more historically-inclined colleagues might have further insights in to this law, but in reviewing the laws addressing wills, apparently, several laws involving wills went in to effect at the same time, which would indicate there was a significant overhaul of Tennessee laws applying to wills in 1941. Before that time, I have no idea, what laws, if any existed in Tennessee regarding wills, who could make them, what needed to be included in them for them to be valid, etc.
I do find it interesting that the legislators found it necessary to specifically state that married women disposed of property through wills. In the extremely unlikely event that you are a married woman and you were concerned that you had the ability to dispose of your property by will, breathe a sigh of relief, there is a specific law that states that you can!
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.