DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is recommended
Initial Filing Fee: $0
A last will and testament is a way for you to guarantee that your estate is divided the way you want upon your demise. In North Carolina there are a few different ways you can leave behind a last will and testament. It is one of the states that accepts a holographic will (a will written by hand or recorded via video or audio, to prove that it is your work), but also requires a written copy of what you said be provided to the court. Other states do not have such a requirement. Some states don’t allow a holographic will at all.
In North Carolina, if you do not have a will your property goes straight to a spouse. If you don’t have a spouse, it will be divided amongst your children, but only after all your debts are paid. You can use a will to do the following:
• Make specifications for certain items you own
• Divide up your property and money between multiple people
• Name an Executor (the person that handles everything)
• Give to charity
• Name a guardian for children
Because all these things require a last will and testament, it is worth taking the time to write the document and ensure that your affairs are in order. It does not have to take much time.
Step 1: Find Out if You Are Eligible
In North Carolina, anyone who is at least 18 years of age and of sound mind can write a will. There are no other limitations. You can choose to write a will for any of your personal property items, your financial holdings, and any real property, no matter how small the value.
Step 2: Decide What Type of Will You Wish to Make
There are two standard types of wills in North Carolina. A written will must be witnessed by two adults who do not stand to benefit from the will itself. A holographic will, on the other hand, eliminates the need for witnesses. In this case, you will record yourself reading the will and file the tape and the written will together. Your reading of the will serves as proof that you agree to everything therein. A third type of will exists in North Carolina, specifically for deathbeds. This is a nuncupative will which means it is delivered orally. Those who are terminally ill can make nuncupative wills in the presence of two witnesses who do not stand to gain from the will’s changes, either personally or through a spouse. Both parties must be present at the same time to witness the change to any existing written or holographic will for that will to serve as a last will and testament all by itself.
Step 3: Write the Will
North Carolina provides a standard will document that you can use. It will help you cover all the bases and use proper language. You can write a last will and testament in any way you see fit, but without the right wording, people can contest it after your death. It helps to use legal language, especially if you feel that any of your family will disagree or cause trouble.
Step 4: Sign the Will
You need to sign a standard will in front of two witnesses or a single notary public. You cannot be forced to sign a will or write a will. If a judge later decides that you wrote the will under duress, it will be considered null and void.
Step 5: Deliver and Store the Will
You can store the will on your own, but in North Carolina the original is required when the Executor begins to go through the estate. You can file the original with the county clerk’s office to ensure it is easily found upon your death. Most people like to keep a copy as well. You can sign multiple copies of the EXACT same will so that they would all be considered original, but it is important to ensure that there are no discrepancies between copies that could lead to disputes. It is best if you clearly state in the will where the original will be filed so there is no problem locating it as well as telling those, such as the Executor, where it can be found.
Step 6: Revise the Will as Necessary
North Carolina does not require that you take any steps to revoke a previous will. A later dated will and testament will always supersede any former versions, though you can destroy the old versions if you see fit. A nuncupative will can be revoked vocally the same way it was made, or by a subsequent written will. It is important to note that marriage and the birth of new children do not revoke a previous will. You need to actually change it. In North Carolina, children born or adopted who are not mentioned in your will still have a legal claim to your estate along with other children. You must write the names of the children in the will and choose not to leave them anything, or else they can make a claim against the estate. Being as detailed as possible will help avoid contention and prevent your estate from being held in probate. Whenever you revise the will, it is best to collect all your former copies, destroy them, and file the new original with the county clerk.