While they are rare, handwritten wills sometimes show up after a person dies. Are these wills valid? What do they need to have to be valid in North Carolina? This state does allow handwritten wills, but there are specific requirements handwritten wills must meet to be considered valid. Read on to learn more about what is required for a handwritten will to be valid in NC.
What Makes a Handwritten Will Valid in NC?
In order for a will to be “self-proving” in North Carolina, it must be signed by two witnesses and the testator (the person the will is for) ,and the signatures must be legally notarized. This is by far the most efficient way to make your will valid in North Carolina. However, it is possible for a will that is not self-proving to be valid in the state, as long as a court can determine that the signatures of the testator and the witnesses are valid. This can be a long and expensive process.
Are There Special Rules for Handwritten Wills?
In North Carolina, a handwritten will must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator, signed by them, and kept in a safe place. What constitutes a “safe place” is up to the judge who is evaluating the validity of the will. Common safe places would include fireproof document safes of safe deposit boxes, but an unconventional “safe place” such as a compartment in the floorboards, for example, may be considered a safe place for a handwritten will if other important documents were also kept there.
For a handwritten will to be valid, in addition to meeting the three requirements listed, three witnesses must testify that the handwriting is indeed the handwriting of the maker of the will, and another witness must testify to where the handwritten will was found.
Are Handwritten Wills Often Thrown Out?
Even if a handwritten will meets all of the requirements listed above, it can still be thrown out by a judge. Handwritten wills are much more likely than other wills to be disputed, and a court can throw them out for just about any reason. If you are considering handwriting your will, make sure that it is all in your own handwriting and keep it in a safe place, but realize that it is much more likely than a typed and notarized will to be contested and thrown out of court in North Carolina.
Do I Need an Attorney to Prepare My Will?
While it is possible to print out boilerplate forms from internet sources that purport to allow you to create your own will, there is no guarantee that these wills will be valid or hold up in a court of law. Generally, the forms are written generically for all 50 states and may not include specific provisions that are required in North Carolina. If you fill out the form and file it away, you will have no way of knowing if it meets all of the requirements of a valid will in North Carolina, and you may be setting your loved ones up for a chaotic time figuring out your finances and inheritance wishes after you are gone. The best advice is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a will and a trust that will stand the test of time and give you and your loved ones the peace of mind of knowing that everything is in place to take care of them when you are gone.