Is a handwritten will valid?

Is a handwritten ("holographic") will valid in North Carolina?

The answer is, it depends. Specifically, it depends on where you live, the will itself, and how it was executed. Every state has different rules. In North Carolina, there are three minimum requirements for a holographic will. 

1) The will must be written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, and

(2) Subscribed by the testator, or with the testator's name written in or on the will in the testator's own handwriting, and

(3) Found after the testator's death among the testator's valuable papers or effects, or in a safe-deposit box or other safe place where it was deposited by the testator or under the testator's authority, or in the possession or custody of some person with whom, or some firm or corporation with which, it was deposited by the testator or under the testator's authority for safekeeping.  (See North Carolina General Statutes 31-3.4) 

But beware of handwriting your own will. Even if you get all three of the above minimum requirements right, your will still may not transfer property to your beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes. In other words, just because you can write your own will in North Carolina, doesn't mean it is a good idea. The reason for this is, handwritten wills may not include basic will provisions or cover important aspects of your estate. They may not fit your situation. As a result, handwritten wills can cause partial intestacy, accidental disinheritance, and other problems for your beneficiaries. Relying on your own handwritten will is risky because if it's wrong, you can't fix it after you're gone! 

The bottom line is problems with handwritten wills may end up costing your estate and your family much more in litigation costs and challenges than the cost of a will drafted by an attorney.  If you'd rather not put your family's future at risk with a handwritten will, we're here to help. Call us at 704.887.5242 to schedule a consultation. 

Nancy Roberts
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