Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in North Carolina

In 1984 my grandmother wrote her will, the will was witnessed by three people, signed and dated. Is this considered a legal will?

Asked on 8/21/11, 4:56 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

I have not seen the document nor do I know where your grandmother lived at the time of her death.

Assuming that your grandmother lived in North Carolina, handwritten wills are valid. They don't have to be witnessed by anyone. However, to be valid, they must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator (your grandmother), the will must be signed by your grandmother and the will must be found among her important papers at the time of her death. If your grandmother lived outside of North Carolina, you would have to speak with a lawyer in that state as different states have different requirements.

A will that is printed or typed must be witnessed by two individuals who are not beneficiaries under the will (some states require three witnesses and its always a good idea to have a third person in case there is some problem). The witnesses and testator should sign in each other's presence to avoid any problems. Some states even require it.

A witnessed will should be notarized to make the will self-proving. What this means is that after the person's death, the personal representative will not have to prove that this is indeed the will and get the witnesses to sign an affidavit. If the will is not notarized, then the witnesses will have to sign an affidavit and there can be problems if one of the witneses is dead or no longer available.

31‑3.3. Attested written will.

(a) An attested written will is a written will signed by the testator and attested by at least two competent witnesses as provided by this section.

(b) The testator must, with intent to sign the will, do so by signing the will himself or by having someone else in the testator's presence and at his direction sign the testator's name thereon.

(c) The testator must signify to the attesting witnesses that the instrument is his instrument by signing it in their presence or by acknowledging to them his signature previously affixed thereto, either of which may be done before the attesting witnesses separately.

(d) The attesting witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator but need not sign in the presence of each other.

31‑3.4. Holographic will.

(a) A holographic will is a will

(1) Written entirely in the handwriting of the testator but when all the words appearing on a paper in the handwriting of the testator are sufficient to constitute a valid holographic will, the fact that other words or printed matter appear thereon not in the handwriting of the testator, and not affecting the meaning of the words in such handwriting, shall not affect the validity of the will, and

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

(3) Found after the testator's death among his valuable papers or effects, or in a safe‑deposit box or other safe place where it was deposited by him or under his authority, or in the possession or custody of some person with whom, or some firm or corporation with which, it was deposited by him or under his authority for safekeeping.

(b) No attesting witness to a holographic will is required.

Read more
Answered on 8/21/11, 9:30 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Probate, Trusts, Wills & Estates questions and answers in North Carolina