Tennessee Restrictions on Who Can Serve as Executor

Learn the rules about who can be your executor in Tennessee.

By , MSLIS · Long Island University
Updated by Jeff Burtka, Attorney · George Mason University Law School

One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor—sometimes called a "personal representative" in Tennessee. After your death, your executor's primary job is to protect your property until any debts and taxes have been paid, and then transfer what's left to those who are entitled to it.

Every state has some rules about who may serve as the executor of an estate that goes through probate. Here are the requirements in Tennessee.

Basic Requirements for Serving as a Tennessee Executor

In Tennessee, you cannot name:

  • someone who has been convicted of a crime and received a prison sentence, or
  • a judge, unless he or she is a member of your family and representing your estate will not interfere with any judicial duties.

(Tenn. Code § 40-20-115; Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10, RJC 3.8 (2024).)

Otherwise, you are free to name any adult that you trust as your executor. The court must appoint that person unless someone else challenges your choice of executor and there is clear evidence that he or she is not competent to "reasonably discharge" the duties of the office. (See McFarlin v. McFarlin, 785 S.W.2d 367 (1989); Estate of Doyle v. Hunt, 60 S.W.3d 838 (2001).)

Choose someone who is honest and able to keep track of details in an organized way. Before you make your will, be sure your choice is willing to accept the job.

Rules for Corporate Executors

While you can name a bank or trust company as your executor, it must be authorized to act as fiduciary. Furthermore, the corporation must be based in Tennessee, unless it:

  • is authorized to transact business in the state and maintains an office in Tennessee
  • appoints a Tennessee resident or a corporation with an office in the state to serve as coexecutor, or
  • has its headquarters in a state that reciprocates, granting Tennessee banks and trust companies the "authority to serve in like fiduciary capacities."

(Tenn. Code §§ 35-50-107, 45-2-1001 (2024).)

That said, think carefully before appointing a corporation to represent your estate. It's almost always best to name an individual; consider an institution only if you don't know anyone you trust enough to serve or your estate is very large and complex.

Tennessee Restrictions on Out-of-State Executors

For practical reasons, it's smart to name an executor who lives near you. Your executor may have to handle day-to-day matters for weeks, months, or sometimes longer. If you must appoint an executor who lives far away, you should know the requirements Tennessee imposes on out-of-state executors.

In Tennessee, a nonresident can serve as your executor if you name an in-state coexecutor and the nonresident appoints the secretary of state as agent to accept legal papers. The probate court may also require the nonresident executor to post bond. (Tenn. Code § 35-50-107 (2024).)

Learn More

For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.

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