Though the process of making a will is similar in every state, there are important differences that you need to know. Otherwise, your will might not be recognized as valid. Each state has its own legal requirements for making a will, and you must follow these state-specific requirements when you make your will. To make an online will in North Carolina, make sure you finalize it in the required way and be sure to use an online will customized for the state.
Can I Make a Will Online in North Carolina?
Yes. If you are at least 18 years of age and “of sound mind,” you can make an online will in North Carolina. We recommend USLegalWills to make a will online.
Here are the legal requirements for online will making in North Carolina:
- The person making the will, or the Testator, must either sign the will or acknowledge their signature in front of two competent witnesses.
- The witnesses must sign the will after either seeing the Testator sign it or hear the Testator acknowledge their signature. They do not have to sign it in front of each other, but they must sign it in front of the Testator.
- After making an online will, it must be printed out. While some states allow electronic wills, North Carolina does not currently recognize digital-only wills. You must make a hard copy with physical signatures.
In addition to the above, you should choose two “disinterested parties” to act as the witnesses to your will. While it does not invalidate your will if they are “interested parties,” any provisions left to them or their spouses are voided.
Does North Carolina Require a Notarized Will?
No, you do not need to notarize your will for it to be legally valid in North Carolina. However, like many other states, North Carolina does allow for a will to be “self-proved.” It is not actually the will itself that is notarized, but there is a separate document (called a “self-proving affidavit”) that is made before a notary public and attached to the will. Any time a will is presented to the probate court, it must be validated. If your will is not “self-proved,” the court may call upon the witnesses to testify to its authenticity. If your witnesses cannot be located, this can easily begin to complicate the process.
To make a will “self-proved” in North Carolina, you and your witnesses make sworn statements (affidavits) in front of a notary public. These affidavits act the same as though they were made before the court. You attach these affidavits to your will, making it “self-proved.”
Essentially, by doing this, you and your witnesses have already testified to the authenticity and the validity of your will. This can help speed up the probate process by allowing the court to automatically accept your will as valid.
Can I Name an Executor in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, an executor can be named in an online will. An executor is an individual who is appointed to handle settling a person’s estate after death, making sure the will is followed. The executor also handles day-to-day matters, such as paying ongoing expenses and paying other debts. It is a good idea to name someone as the executor of your estate in your will; you want to pick someone you know well and that you trust. You can also name multiple people as executors (to act as co-executors or as substitutes if needed); otherwise, the court will appoint someone (which can delay the probate process).
Here are the requirements for an executor in North Carolina:
- The person must be at least 18 years old, and
- The person must be of sound mind (meaning not judged incapacitated by a court).
- The person cannot have a felony conviction on their record, unless their “citizenship has been restored.” This means that they must have served out their sentence and have met all the terms of their parole.
- The person cannot have lost their “right to serve” (an ex-spouse, for instance).
To name an executor who lives out-of-state, North Carolina requires:
- An out-of-state executor must appoint an in-state person to act as their “agent.” The in-state agent will accept any legal documents on behalf of your estate.
Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Will in North Carolina?
Generally, you do not need an attorney to make and execute a valid will in North Carolina. However—if your estate is complex or large, or if you want to include special conditions in your will—it is always best to consult an estate planning attorney. In most cases, though, online will making is a good option. If your will is straightforward and your estate is simple, you can use an online will making service with state-specific templates. To make an online will in North Carolina valid, you want to be sure you follow the legal requirements set forth by the state.
What Types of Wills Are Valid in North Carolina?
Any type of will which meets the federal and state-specific requirements is valid in North Carolina, whether the will is made online or not.
Can I Make a Holographic Will in North Carolina?
A holographic will is a handwritten will signed only by the Testator, typically with no attesting witnesses. North Carolina does recognize holographic wills if certain conditions are met.
In North Carolina, a holographic will is valid if it is written entirely in the Testator’s handwriting, if it is signed, and if it is found among the Testator’s valuable papers (or in a safe, or a safety deposit box, or given to someone under the Testator’s authority for safekeeping).
It is important to note that holographic wills often face delays in probate court—often, people forget to include important provisions or use unclear language, and the will has to be proved authentic (usually by calling upon witnesses to testify to your handwriting). It is best to have a properly written and witnessed will in order to avoid potential legal complications.
Can I Make a Nuncupative or Video Will in North Carolina?
A nuncupative will is an oral will, sometimes left on video; and while they are not ideal, they are allowed in North Carolina under certain conditions. For a nuncupative will to be legally binding in North Carolina, it must:
- Be made by someone in their last sickness or in imminent peril of death, and the person does not survive such sickness or peril.
- Be declared as the person’s last will and testament in front of two witnesses, who both are present during the declaration and specifically requested by the person to act as witnesses to the will.
Nuncupative wills, like holographic ones, can often face legal challenges when presented to the probate court. If time and health allow, a written, witnessed, and legally binding will is much better for avoiding legal delays when settling the estate.
How Is a Living Will Different from an Online Will in North Carolina?
An advance directive, which is sometimes known as a living will, is a legal document which gives instructions on medical decisions and end-of-life care. A last will and testament, whether made online or otherwise, is a separate document that contains matters of a person’s estate and other instructions for after death; this means that a last will and testament is not the right place to leave medical directives or end-of-life care instructions. Usually, a will is not consulted until after the funeral and as such, your family may not know about such desires if you were to leave them in your will. A living will also has different requirements than a last will and testament. However, you can make both a living will and a last will and testament online. To read more about living wills in North Carolina, you can go here.
The general requirements for a living will in North Carolina are:
- You must be at least 18 years old and be “of sound mind” (meaning, competent to make decisions about your health care).
- You must sign it, and you must have your signature witnessed by two qualified witnesses and proved by a notary public.
Once you execute a valid living will, you should make copies of it to give to your primary physician and/or trusted relatives. North Carolina also maintains an Advanced Health Care Directive Registry (found here), where you can file it as well.
Why Do I Need to Make a Will Online in North Carolina?
When someone dies without a will, there are certain laws that determine what happens. These laws are specific to each state, known as intestacy laws, and they determine how your estate is divided. The court will also appoint guardians for any minor children and name an executor. This can become a lengthy legal process, often holding up property in probate for months or years at a time. The estate will be divided between surviving family members according to the intestacy distribution laws of North Carolina—and if no surviving family members are found, the state can take ownership of your property.
To avoid such legal complications, it is best to have a will. Once you make an online will in North Carolina, your estate can be settled in a much quicker manner. It is especially important to make a will if you have any minor children.
What Can I Include in an Online Will in North Carolina?
You can include the following in when you make a will, online or otherwise, in North Carolina:
- The executor of your estate.
- Guardians for minor children.
- A guardian to oversee any property left to minor children.
- A trusted person to care for remaining pets (as well as a “pet trust” to provide financial assistance for their care).
- Distribution of property to specific family members, friends, or charities.
- Distribution of family heirlooms and sentimental items.
- Distribution of personal or other sentimental items.
What Should Not Be Included in a Will in North Carolina?
You should not include funeral directions, medical directives, or end-of-life care desires in a last will and testament. Funeral arrangements are usually made immediately, meaning any such instructions will likely not be known until after the funeral is held. Any medical directives or end-of-life care stipulations must be made in a separate legal document.
For medical directives and end-of-life care, create a living will.
To leave your funeral directions, you can talk with a family member and/or make a separate document describing what you wish for your funeral arrangements. Give this document to the executor of your estate or other trusted relatives.
Can I Change or Revoke an Online Will Made in North Carolina?
Whether made online or not, a will is a legally binding document. If executed in the correct way, your will is now valid and will be enforced upon your death. However, you can change or revoke a will at any time. You change or revoke a will you make online the same as a will in general.
In North Carolina, here are ways to change or revoke a will:
- Physically destroy it with the act of revoking it.
- Order someone else to physically destroy it in your presence.
- Execute a new will that revokes the old one.
- Execute a document (finalized with the same formalities as a will) that states it revokes it.
After any major life change, it is wise to revisit your will—such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, adoption, or acquisition of significant assets which change the distribution of property, or relocation to another state or country. If you are making major changes to your will, it is best to write a new one. To make only minor changes to a will, add an amendment called a codicil. A codicil must be finalized in the same way that the original will is finalized.
How Do I Finalize an Online Will in North Carolina?
After you make an online will in North Carolina, take the following steps to finalize it:
- Print it out,
- Sign it in front of two witnesses, and
- Have your witnesses sign it in front of you.
Your witnesses do not need to see each other sign the will, but each witness must sign it in front of you. You can also acknowledge your signature and have your witnesses sign after hearing the acknowledgement.
To make a will “self-proved” in North Carolina, you and your witness need to make sworn statements in front of a notary public. Once you attach these affidavits to your will, it is considered “self-proved.”
Be sure to consider these special considerations in North Carolina:
- Divorce will automatically revoke any provisions in the will that benefited the former spouse.