Changes to North Carolina’s Statutes Lower the Bar for Valid Holographic Wills

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When it comes to end of life planning, ideally you will consult an attorney to assist you in preparing your estate plan.  However, not everyone has access to legal help, and people might find themselves in a situation in which there is insufficient time to consult an attorney, such as in the case of rapidly declining health.  For this reason, many states, including North Carolina, have statutes regarding “holographic wills.”  A holographic will is generally a handwritten document signed by the testator and is typically not witnessed or notarized.

In North Carolina, a holographic will was previously defined as a will (1) written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, (2) signed by the testator (or contains “the testator’s name written in or on the will in the testator’s own handwriting”), and (3) “[f]ound 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.”  This third requirements, the so-called “location requirement,” prevented a holographic will from being admitted to probate unless a witness could testify to facts showing that the will was found within the parameters set by the location requirement.

On July 8, 2021, Governor Roy Cooper signed SL 2021‑85, which amended North Carolina’s holographic will statute to remove the location requirement, with the new version of the statute going into effect that same day.  Now, a holographic will may be admitted to probate regardless of where it was found, so long as the other requirements for a valid holographic will are present.  Kevin Bennardo, the law professor who submitted the proposal to the North Carolina Statutes Commission, stated: “[Individuals intending to create a holographic will] shouldn’t be prevented from creating a valid will because of a technicality about where they stored it.  The location requirement was an experiment when it was enacted in the 1700s, but it should have been removed long ago when it became clear that the requirement was doing more harm than good.”  He further explained, “The place where a person stores their holographic will should be considered as evidence of whether they regarded the document as their will, but it should not be a mandatory requirement.  This approach has worked well for other states, and it made sense for North Carolina to do the same.”

The attorneys at Lord & Lindley frequently handle disputes related to the probate of wills as well as other trusts and estates disputes.  Please give us a call at 704-457-1010 to see how we might be able to help you.  For more information regarding our attorneys and practice areas, please visit us at

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