According to the AARP, only 40% of Americans have a will or a trust. If you were to ask these people why they don’t have one, it would probably be because of cost. A lot of people do not want to hire a lawyer to draft up a will. This is a good example of being penny rich and pound foolish because when a person dies without a will (also known as “intestate”) there is a good chance that there will be a costly legal battle over that person’s assets. These battles cause unnecessary strain (both emotional and financial) on already grieving families.
Even if you don’t want to hire a lawyer to make an estate plan, many states allow you to make a will yourself at no cost to you. This is called a holographic will. Some states, like South Carolina, will not allow you to make a holographic will within its borders, but will respect a holographic will made in another state. Luckily, North Carolina does allow you to make a holographic will and the rules for North Carolina are like the rules for other states which allow them.
North Carolina’s law regarding holographic wills is found in North Carolina General Statute § 31-3.4. In addition to the standard requirements for creating a will, like being of sound mind and 18 years of age or older, a holographic will in North Carolina must:
- Be written entirely in the testator’s handwriting (the testator is the person making the will/deciding what happens with their property after they die)
- The testator’s name is written on the will and signed by them.
- The will should be kept in a safe place that can be easily found after the testator’s death.
There are obvious problems that come with writing a will yourself. You may write something that you believe is clear, but which has multiple meanings and can lead to people contesting the will. For example, you may have two grandsons named “John” and want to leave one of them your vehicle, but if you just write “John gets my car,” they may fight over which one of them it is meant to go to. It could be that you don’t have a car anymore, instead you have a truck, and they might fight over that. This is why people should update their wills when their property changes and is also why they should ideally hire a lawyer to write their will. However, if you live in a state which allows holographic wills and the only thing preventing you from dying intestate is creating one, you should write one and try your best to make it as unambiguous as possible (use full names for beneficiaries, use the right addresses for properties, and identify the proper vehicles).
If you have a legal issue, we are here to help. Contact King Law at 888-748- (5464) KING for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. King Law is here to serve you and help navigate this journey you are on.