North Carolina recognizes the validity of handwritten wills. Under NC law, a handwritten will must satisfy the following requirements:
- Written entirely in the handwriting of the testator (the will-maker);
- Subscribed by the testator, or with his name written in or on the will in his own handwriting; and,
- Found after the testator’s death among his valuable papers or effects or in a place of safekeeping.
Also, no special language or formatting is required. A handwritten will must simply satisfy the above three elements to be valid in NC. Thus, handwriting a will may appear an easy (and cheap) method for arranging to dispose of one’s possessions at death.
However, handwriting a will is only half of the story. A handwritten will must also be proven or probated after the death of the testator to take effect. In other words, the probate court must determine that the handwritten will is, in fact, valid under NC law. To make its assessment, the probate court will require testimonies from competent witnesses to corroborate (1) the handwriting of the testator and (2) the location of the will at the time of the testator’s death.
For this reason, handwritten wills may not end up being as easy (or cheap) as first believed. One of the estate planning goals for many families is to reduce the complexities of probate, if not avoid it entirely in the first place. Yet, probate is unavoidable in cases of handwritten wills, and arranging for proper witness testimonies to comply with NC law costs time and money.
Additionally, handwritten wills are not recognized in all states. Keep this in mind if you and your family move frequently. Your handwritten will that may be valid in NC may be invalid after you relocate.
For more information on wills and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact our