Making a will is a major part of careful estate planning for many in North Carolina. An effective will can provide for the distribution of your assets and ensure the carrying out of your wishes when the time comes.
North Carolina law sets out some basic requirements for a valid will. Taking the time to get the preparation correct can help avoid problems for your executor and beneficiaries later on. An invalid will can cause your estate to settle in accordance with intestacy laws.
Who can make a will
To make a valid will, you must be over 18 years of age and of sound mind. Generally, the law requires you to understand what property you possess and what your disposition of it means. In some cases, the testator's mental capacity may later become grounds for contesting the will. If you have reason to believe a challenge based on capacity likely, you may wish to protect yourself by undergoing an evaluation with a qualified professional.
You must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses. They do not have to know the contents of your will; however, they must be aware they are witnessing your signature to your will. Unlike some other states, North Carolina allows beneficiaries to witness a will. However, in the event of undue influence allegations, the court may make negative inferences.
Alternatively, North Carolina accepts holographic wills. This is a will the testator completely handwrites and signs without any witnesses.
Differing from most states, North Carolina also recognizes oral, or nuncupative, wills under certain circumstances. The rule is that someone about to die can orally state his or her wishes for the disposition of personal property. The law does not include real estate in this exception.
Planning for the future
A great deal of litigation concerning wills happens because someone took a shortcut and did not follow the proper procedure or legal requirements. Then the estate becomes tied up in disputes such as whether a witness signature made in another room is valid. Advance planning and consultation with your attorney can help you circumvent these types of problems.