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What is a holographic will?

Handwritten (holographic) wills are rare these days, but they are still recognized in some states, including North Carolina. Under North Carolina law, a holographic will is valid if:

-- It's entirely in the handwriting of the testator (the person whose will it is).

-- It includes the testator's name in his/her handwriting.

-- It's found among the testator's effects, safe deposit box or other secure location after his/her death if the testator authorized someone else to keep it.

In North Carolina, the writing of a holographic will doesn't have to be witnessed. However, that requirement (as well as others) vary among the states that recognize these wills. The number of witnesses required also varies by state.

North Carolina, unlike some states, doesn't require that the will be on otherwise blank paper. For example, someone could write it on the back of some other document and it would still be considered valid if the other conditions were met.

Of course, having a holographic will is not the recommended course of action. Some people handwrite a will if they believe their death is imminent and they don't have time to bring in an attorney to handle it for them. However, depending on the nature of a person's illness or injury, questions could potentially be raised about whether he or she was of sound mind and body when writing the will and was not doing it under duress.

If you're writing your own will, you should clearly state that it's your last will and testament, name an executor to handle your estate and designate to whom you want to leave your assets. A judge could potentially still rule that it's invalid if it contains one or more legal errors. Then the estate would go to the next of kin.

Whether you have a few assets or a considerable estate, it's best to get your will in place before you're facing death. Of course, no one knows when that point will come.

While many people hesitate drawing up a will because they don't want to contemplate their demise, once you've drawn it up with the guidance of a North Carolina estate planning attorney, you can have peace of mind and rarely have to think about it again unless there are changes like a marriage, divorce or grandchildren that require some amendments. However, a well-crafted estate plan can make these changes relatively simple.

Source: Zacks, "Instructions for a Holographic Will," accessed Feb. 07, 2017

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