Does My North Carolina Will Have to be Filed with the Court?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

January 20, 2017

Drafting a will gives you the chance to define how you want your estate to be divided, eliminates arguments about who is getting your assets, and allows you to provide for your family even if you’re no longer around. But what, exactly, are you supposed to “do” with a will after you draft it? Should you stow it away in a safe or file cabinet and forget about it, or should you file it with a third party, such as the superior court?

If you have questions about the process of writing or handling a will, contact our experienced North Carolina will attorney Jonathan Breeden at (919) 661-4970 to find out how he can help you.

Filing a Living Person’s Will

The superior court allows you to file your will on-site. Each court has a depository in which a physical copy of your will may be filed and stored. The only people allowed to view the wills of living persons are the person who signed it, the person’s attorney, and the person’s authorized agent. A will does not become public information until the testator passes away and it is filed with the probate court.

Filing a Decedent’s Will

Once a person has passed, their will must be filed in the probate court. There are a couple different people who may execute this act:

  • The executor of the will may apply to the superior court to have the will put into probate court; or
  • A beneficiary or interested party of the estate may apply to have a will proved if the executor has not done so within 60 days after the decedent has passed. Interested parties can include people who are disqualified from becoming an executor, such as a person under the age of 18 or an illiterate person.

Do You Have to File Your Own Will with The Court?

Technically, you do not need to file your will with the court while you are still living. But, it could be beneficial to your family or your executor to have the will entrusted to a third party where it can easily be produced.

Once a person dies, their family or the will executor will likely try to locate the will immediately. Sometimes finding a will can be difficult, especially if the decedent kept it hidden and neglected to tell anyone where the will was located. After you exhaust all efforts and can’t find a will, even though you know the decedent has one, the decedent’s estate may have to pass through probate. If a person is thought to have died intestate, their estate is divided according to North Carolina laws of intestate succession, and their wishes may not be carried out the way they had directed.

In addition to being easily accessible after death, a will that is filed with the court cannot be altered by friends or family members who feel they are entitled to a bigger piece of the pie. If your will is not stored in a safe location, it may be altered without your permission.

If there is any concern that your will may be difficult to locate after you pass or you have concerns that the contents of the will may be altered, it could be beneficial for you to file your will with the superior court. Knowing your will is safe could provide you peace of mind.

Contact a North Carolina Family Lawyer

An improperly executed will can be ruled invalid by a probate judge. To ensure your will has been properly drafted and witnessed, you should enlist the services of a well-versed family law attorney. Jonathan Breeden has spent his legal career helping North Carolina families with their various legal needs.

Call (919) 661-4970 today to get your will drafted.


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