Challenges in Executing Your Will During the Coronavirus Pandemic

NC holographic will in safety deposit box

Challenges in Executing a Will During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Are you at high risk for complications due to Covid-19 because of your age or pre-existing health conditions?  Have you been putting off executing your will and are now ready to move forward while working from home?  While it may be more difficult to complete your estate plan during the coronavirus pandemic, North Carolina law provides options that are consistent with social distancing policies currently in place.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have been implemented by most states to combat the spread of Covid-19.  The North Carolina stay-at-home order precludes being within 6 feet of other people and discourages social contact with persons who do not reside in your household.  These policies present unique challenges for people looking to create or modify their estate plans.

A standard North Carolina will must be signed by the testator in front of two witnesses.  How do you find two witnesses when you’re supposed to remain 6 feet from non-household members at all times?  Household members are generally not an option to serve as witnesses, as any household member who witnesses your will execution cannot receive any assets from your estate.  If you’re unwilling to risk coming into contact with others but need to execute or modify a will, what are your options in finding disinterested witnesses?

North Carolina acknowledges holographic wills, which if executed under strict requirements do not require any witnesses.  A holographic will can be completed without having contact with anyone else.  In order to meet the requirements for a holographic will in North Carolina your will must be:

1) written entirely in your handwriting;

2) signed by you or contains your name in your own handwriting;

3) found after your death among your valuable papers or effects, in a safe-deposit box, or other safe place, or in the possession or custody of some person, firm, or corporation, by you or at your direction for safekeeping.

Since witnesses are not required, you can insure that your wishes and desires after your death are giving legal effect.

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You don’t need a lawyer to complete a holographic will.  It is advisable that you speak with a lawyer during this process however briefly. A holographic will does not dispense with all of the requirements of a valid will in North Carolina.  You still need to consider whether a testamentary trust is the right option for you or whether some planning decisions should be made for tax purposes.  You need to have an understanding of how real property, life insurance policies or accounts with payable on death provisions interplay with your will.   If you have a substantial estate or minor children an attorney can advise you of options that can better effectuate your testamentary wishes and desires.

How We Can Help

During the pandemic, we can help you execute your will remotely while honoring social distancing guidelines.  Our step-by-step procedure involves providing you with a draft will that will ensure that your wishes will be executed upon your death and instructions on converting our draft into a valid enforceable holographic will.  We can then review your steps to ensure that they are in compliance with North Carolina law.  Contact us today to find out more information on how to get started today.