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  • Writer's pictureRuth Allen

Beware the DIY Will!

I applaud those who take the time and trouble to memorialize their desires for heirs by making a Will, even if using one of the do-it-yourself forms now widely available.

However, someone not familiar with the nuances of North Carolina estate law might create a document which has unintended consequences, which even may be the opposite of what was intended.

I had a recent case which exemplifies just that. A well-meaning father prepared a DIY yourself North Carolina will form, naming his only adult daughter as the main beneficiary, rather than his wife from whom he had been separated for many years (remember, a divorce revokes any gift to the former spouse, unless an after-made will names that former spouse).

However, daughter's husband signed as one of the two required witnesses. In North Carolina, if there are only two witnesses, and one is a spouse of a beneficiary (or the beneficiary herself), it effectively negates any and all gifts left to that beneficiary.

Effectively, despite the best intentions, having son-in-law sign as one of the two required witnesses to the Will negated the gift to the daughter, and instead defaulted to the amicably estranged spouse.

For that reason, I would recommend a visit with a North Carolina licensed attorney to at least review any prior estate planning documents, to make sure that they comport with the current law, and that they will, indeed, result in your intended desires.

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