Make sure your will is legally valid.Eventually, every North Carolina resident should start thinking about a will as part of their overall estate planning strategy. You might be surprised to know there isn’t just a single type of will, however, and laws governing the execution of wills can be surprisingly complex.

Types of North Carolina Wills and How They Work

Every will should name beneficiaries to receive assets and an executor to oversee their distribution. Beyond those basic details, wills can vary based on when and how they are drafted. These are the four main types of wills to know about:

  • Attested written will. By far the easiest to prove and the least likely to be legally challenged, this will is typed out while you are still healthy and must be signed by two witnesses.
  • Handwritten will. Known legally as a holographic will, handwritten instructions must be found in a safe space in the deceased’s personal effects to be valid. A probate court will require witnesses to confirm the handwriting actually belongs to you, and this type of will can often lead to challenges. 
  • Oral will. This last-minute will is typically made on your death bed if you didn’t have a typed will prepared ahead of time. Oral wills are only valid when declared in front of two competent witnesses, and you should change a spoken will into written form as quickly as possible in case your health takes a turn and you recover.
  • Joint will. Two people can legally create their wills together in North Carolina, which is typically done by spouses. The downside to a joint will is that nothing can be changed after one of the signing parties passes away, which may cause problems if you significantly outlive your spouse.

It should be clear that an attested written will offers the strongest legal protections to ensure your wishes are followed. For peace of mind, always work with an attorney to draft your will far in advance to avoid legal problems before it's too late. Here’s what you need to discuss with an experienced estate planning attorney while creating your will:

  • Giving assets to family, charities, or other organizations 
  • Ensuring your home or other real estate goes to the right people
  • Protecting your assets, heirlooms, and property from former spouses or creditors
  • Deciding who will oversee any trusts you have made or distribution of assets for disabled children

Make Sure Your Family and Assets Are Protected, Consult With Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Today

Need to talk over your options with an estate planning professional? Start a free 15-minute consultation with Legacy Lawyers to find out what kind of will is best for your family’s unique situation. 

John J. Peck
Wilmington Elder Law, Estate Planning & Asset Protection Attorney
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