Do You Have a Valid Will?
Did you know that more than half of Americans do not have a Will? Writing a Will can be scary because it can mean acknowledging death, but it is much better to have one than to not. Without a Will, a person who dies is said to have died “intestate.” Intestate comes from the Latin “in” meaning without and “testate” meaning “valid will.”
What Makes a Will Valid in North Carolina?
A Will must be a document that is written (meaning typed or printed), signed by the person making it, and signed by two witnesses. To make a Will, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Being of sound mind has a specific legal meaning that can be the subject of a lot of litigation. The two witnesses must be the same and are there to confirm you are not being pressured into signing a document and that you did sign it. It is also important that your witnesses are disinterested parties, or people who are not named beneficiaries in your will. This can limit the risk of the Will being contested at a later date. Another way to limit the risk that a will is contested is to have what is called a self-proving will, which means it has affidavits from the two witnesses and the testator. Hopler, Wilms, & Hanna always provides self-proving wills to allow for a faster and easier probate.
Are There Other Types of Valid Wills in North Carolina?
Yes. North Carolina recognizes what is called a Holographic Will, or a Will written entirely by hand. This document must be entirely hand-written, with the subscriber’s signature and name, and found among their valuable papers or affects in a safe place after death. No special language or formatting is required. However, a Holographic Will must go before the probate court to determine if it is valid. The court will require testimony from multiple witnesses who can say the Will is written in the decedent’s handwriting and where the Will was found.
While a Holographic Will might seem like an easier and cheaper alternative to meeting with an estate attorney in Wake County to create a Last Will, it often can end up being more work for your family in an already trying time.
Hopler, Wilms, & Hanna is staffed with experienced estate planning attorneys and you can schedule an estate planning consult by calling 919-244-2019.