How to make a will in North Carolina

A guide to North Carolina probate laws

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Elissa SuhSenior Editor & Disability Insurance ExpertElissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

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Who can write a will in North Carolina?

Anyone who is at least 18 years old, if they are of “sound mind,” may write a will in North Carolina.

A strong estate plan starts with life insurance

What are the requirements for witnessing a will in North Carolina?

Every will must be signed by at least two competent witnesses.

Can witnesses be beneficiaries of the will in North Carolina?

Yes, but unless there are two disinterested witnesses, an inheritance may be void.

What are the requirements for nominating an executor in North Carolina?

  • Age of executor: At least 18 years old

  • Cannot be a convicted felon or someone found unsuitable by the court

  • Corporate executors must be authorized to act as fiduciary in the state

  • Out-of-state executors can be allowed if an in-state resident acts as a processing agent

  • Must be literate

Can you create a holographic will in North Carolina?

Yes, North Carolina allows for a holographic will if it is written entirely in the testator’s handwriting. If it is, then the will doesn’t need to be signed by witnesses if it follows one of the following stipulations:

1. The will was found among the testator’s “valuable papers or effects” or another “safe place” under the testator’s authority

2. The will was found in the testator’s safe deposit box

3. The will is held by a person, firm, or corporation, specifically enlisted by the testator for safekeeping

Is North Carolina a community property state?

No, North Carolina is not a community property state.

In a community property state, each spouse has an equal share of property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property.

Laws of intestacy in North Carolina

In North Carolina, when there is no will, the court will determine who receives the intestate estate based on the laws of intestate succession.

This is how much a surviving spouse receives in a few different circumstances:

If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:

Surviving spouse's share of real property

Surviving' spouse's share of personal property

One child or grandchild if the child is deceased


Everything, if the total property value does not exceed $60,000; or $60,000 plus 1/2 of the remainder if the value exceeds $60,000

Two or more children, or at least one child and at least one grandchild from another child who is deceased, or two more grandchildren from children who are deceased


Everything, if the total property value does not exceed $60,000; or $60,000 plus 1/3 if the value exceeds $60,000

No children or grandchildren from deceased children, but at least one parent


Everything, if the total property value does not exceed $100,000; or $100,000 plus 1/2 if the value exceeds $100,000

No children or parents



Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along to next of kin in the following order:

  • Children, or the grandchildren of children who are deceased

  • Parents

  • Siblings, or their descendants (nieces/nephews)

  • Grandparents

  • Aunts and uncles or their descendants (cousins)

For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share may pass to their children often with a per capita at each generation designation.

Filing the will in North Carolina

In North Carolina, you can file your will with the office of the superior court for safekeeping.

After the testator dies, the named executor can file the will at the superior court in the county where the decedent lived. After 60 days or at the probate court’s discretion, an interested beneficiary can file the will if no executor has applied for probate, and the executor has been given 10 days notice.

North Carolina allows for wills to be proven while the testator is still alive, in a process known as living probate, in which the testator petitions the superior court.

Estate administration without probate in North Carolina

In North Carolina, personal property may not need to go through probate if its value is less than $20,000, less any creditor judgements. To do this, you must file a small estate affidavit at least 30 days after the decedent has passed away, if no personal representative’s petition to oversee the estate is pending or has been granted.

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