Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. North Carolina wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating a valid North Carolina last will and testament and to assign a person (called the executor in most states) to administer the will after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a North Carolina Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years of age.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind.
Signature: A North Carolina last will and testament must be signed by the testator with the intent to sign, or by another person under the testator's direction and conscious presence.
Witnesses: At least two witnesses must sign a North Carolina last will and testament either after witnessing the testator sign the will, or the testator's acknowledge of the signature. The witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator but need not to be in the presence of each other.
Writing: A will must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A will may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic wills: Under certain requirements provided by North Carolina laws, a handwritten will may be recognized. However, the legal requirements for a handwritten will are specific and need to be strictly followed in order to deem the will valid.
Nuncupative wills: In certain circumstances (e.g. in the last sickness), an oral will that disposes of personal property may be valid under North Carolina laws. However, the legal requirements for an oral will must be strictly followed in order to deem the will valid.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, North Carolina laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's North Carolina wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our North Carolina wills form may be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled.
Our North Carolina wills form may also pass on property to a charity.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
A beneficiary in a life insurance policy may not be changed through a will.
If a spouse is excluded from the will, the surviving spouse may take a portion (an "elective share") of the estate within a certain period of time as allowed by North Carolina laws.
Providing for Pets
Applicable North Carolina state laws recognize trusts created to provide caretakers for pets after the death of the owner. The trust terminates when the last pet has died.
A testator may create provisions in a North Carolina will (known as a pour over will or a testamentary trust) to send property (e.g. the pet) to a trust. Legalzoom's North Carolina wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this way.
Changing and Revoking
Changing Your Will
A North Carolina will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A North Carolina will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with North Carolina probate laws.
Revoking Your Will
A North Carolina will and testament or a part of a will and testament can be revoked:
1) By a subsequent written will or codicil or other revocatory writing constructed in the same legal manner as a written will or
2) By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revoking it, by the testator himself or by another person in his presence and by his direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the North Carolina last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, appoint a personal representative to administrate the will, and distribute property as designated in the North Carolina last will.
North Carolina estate taxes encompass the Federal estate tax credit for state death taxes. Within 9 months of the testator's death, an estate tax return must be filed with the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
It is extremely important to make a North Carolina will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict North Carolina laws.
For example, if the intestate decedent is survived by only one child or by any lineal descendant of only one deceased child, your spouse receives a one-half undivided interest in the real property. Likewise, if the intestate decedent is survived by only one child or by any lineal descendant of only one deceased child, and the net personal property does not exceed thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) in value, your spouse will receive all of the personal property; if the net personal property exceeds thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) in value, then your spouse receives a sum of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) plus one half of the balance of the personal property.
If you make a North Carolina will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.