Wills have long been used to ensure final wishes for assets and property are legally upheld following the death of a person. Generally, a will is the legal document that details what you wish to have done with assets and property after your death. In turn, wills have an integral role in any trust and estate planning and should be created by every person, regardless of status or wealth. The Van Winkle Law Firm assists clients with wills and probate — contact our law firm to schedule a consultation.

What Are The Requirements For A Will To Be Valid?

To create a valid will, the person making the will — the testator — must be at least age 18 and of sound mind. Though it’s preferable witnesses not have an interest in the estate, North Carolina doesn’t automatically bar a potential beneficiary or heir from acting as a witness. Most wills have two witnesses who are present when the will is being drafted.

The will must be signed in front of the witnesses by the testator with both witnesses signing the document. The document doesn’t need to be notarized to be legal, but North Carolina has a provision for self-proving wills. Wills created in this form have been signed by yourself and both witnesses in front of a notary. There is also an affidavit portion, in which the identity of each signing party and knowledge of signing the will is proved. Self-proving wills are generally accepted by the probate court as the affidavit does away with the need to contact each witness. For information concerning the contested validity of a will, contact The Van Winkle Law Firm.

4 Types Of Wills

North Carolina allows a will to be used to name an executor of will of your choosing. If an executor isn’t named, one is appointed by the probate court to handle the affairs of your estate.

1. Attested Written Wills

By far the most common type of will, an attested written will is typed and printed, then signed by the testator and two witnesses. Witnesses must either see firsthand the testator signing the document or hear the declaration of the will.

2. Handwritten Wills

Also called holographic wills, this type of will is entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. North Carolina doesn’t allow for someone else to sign the will on the testator’s behalf. This type of will is commonly found among the testator’s personal items, in a safe deposit box, or held for safekeeping elsewhere under the authority and direction of the testator. While witnesses aren’t specifically required for a handwritten will, probate court requires three witnesses to verify the handwriting is that of the testator and a separate witness to verify the location of the will.

3. Oral Wills

Oral wills, also called nuncupative, are only valid in North Carolina when the testator is extremely ill or in imminent peril of death. The declaration must be made in front of two competent witnesses in unison. The testator must have specifically requested both witnesses to be present. Oral wills are only able to distribute personal property and must be probated within six months of being made unless the will is reduced to writing within 10 days after being made.

4. Joint Wills

Joint wills are signed by two or more people as a separate will for each person. This type of will enters probate after the death of each testator. Keep in mind that once a joint will is created, the beneficiaries, documented wishes, executor — if named — and tax plans can’t be changed after the passing of one testator.

How Do I Decide Which Type Of Will Is Right For Me?

Ultimately, the type of will right for you will depend on your specific circumstances and situation. When you begin to make a will, consider these questions as you begin:

  • Do you own a home or other real estate?
  • Do you have children from a current and/or previous marriage?
  • Do you want assets or property left to certain people and/or organizations?

How these questions are answered can guide which type of will is right for your situation. The end goal of a will is to carry out your final wishes, such as distributing real property or naming a guardian for minor children.

While it’s not uncommon for people to create a will without the help of an estate planning attorney, The Van Winkle Law Firm is available to answer and/or clarify any questions you may have. Contact our law firm today to schedule a consultation.