Whether an online will is valid in North Carolina depends on what you mean by “online will.” Although it is possible to download and print out generic, boilerplate forms as a will, any last will and testament that exists only digitally (as an electronic document, an audio or video recording, or an online image) is not considered valid in this state.

Want to learn more?
Join us for our free Estate Planning Seminar Saturdays in downtown Asheville! »

Can I Save Money By Using an Online Will Creation Service?

There are ads all over the internet claiming that you can use their services to create an online will for much less than it would cost to do so using an estate planning attorney. While it is true that the upfront cost to create a will in this way might be lower, is it worth it to wonder whether your will is valid and whether your loved ones will actually be taken care of after you are no longer around to take care of them?

A generic, online will creation service cannot advise you as to the best way to create your will according to your particular circumstances. Every person and every family are different, but an online will generator is likely to treat everyone as if their circumstances are the same. An experienced estate planning attorney, however, can take every aspect of your situation into consideration in advising you on the best way to create your will to ensure that it is legally binding and that it does what you want it to do, which is to make sure that your wishes are clear and are followed, and that your loved ones are not left in financial and emotional chaos trying to implement a will that did not fit the circumstances.

Are Digital Wills Legal in North Carolina?

North Carolina law requires that a hard copy of a will be signed by the testator (the person the will is for) and two witnesses while in each other’s presence and notarized. Electronic documents, audio or video recordings, or other digital files are not recognized as valid wills in North Carolina.

What Happens if My Online Will is Determined to Be Invalid?

If you create an online will that ends up being deemed invalid in the state of North Carolina, you will be determined to have died without a will, which is called dying intestate. Your estate will have to go through the probate process, and your assets and property will eventually be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, instead of according to your wishes. If you wanted your spouse to inherit everything, for example, but your online will is ignored by the court, your spouse will only be entitled to the first $30,000 of your estate and will be required to split the rest with other family members. Creating a last will and testament, and even better a trust, with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney will ensure that your wishes are followed and that your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone.