North Carolina Rules for Filing Wills

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

North Carolina Rules for Filing Wills

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Preparing a will can give you comfort knowing your assets will pass according to your wishes when you die. Your will should identify the person responsible for administering your estate and document to whom and in what percentages the executor should distribute estate assets. People often question whether they need to file their wills with the court after signing the documents. In North Carolina, people who create wills can choose to file them with the Superior Court for safekeeping. After a North Carolina resident dies, his or her will must be filed with the probate court.

Elderly couple overlooking documents in home

Filing Wills for Safekeeping

Each North Carolina Superior Court office maintains a receptacle or depository that residents can use for their wills during their lifetimes. When someone deposits a will, its contents are secure and are not available for inspection by anyone other than the person who created the will, called the testator, or the testator's authorized agent during the testator's lifetime.

While you are not legally required to file your will for safekeeping, doing so may limit confusion and make the will easier to locate after you die.

If you file your will for safekeeping with the Clerk of Court but later wish to make changes, you can withdraw the deposited will. Chapter 31, Article 4 of the North Carolina General Statutes provides the legislative framework for these provisions.

Probating a Will in North Carolina

When a North Carolina resident dies, the will—if a valid will exists—must be filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the applicable county. Under North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 28A, the Clerk of Court has authority to compel anyone in the state to produce the will.

For the first 60 days after the decedent's death, the named executor is the only person authorized to file the will with the Clerk of Court. If the executor does not file the will within 60 days, any beneficiary named in the will or any other interested party can file the will and open a probate proceeding after providing 10 days' notice to the executor.

Submitting the will along with an application to open a probate estate is the first step in obtaining legal authorization to administer the estate. If the court approves the application, it issues "letters testamentary," which the executor then uses to obtain and transfer title to assets according to the terms of the will.

Planning Your Estate

North Carolina residents are not required to prepare wills. However, creating a will or trust may help make the estate administration process easier for your loved ones. When you create a will, you document your wishes in writing, which can eliminate frustration or arguments among your loved ones.

You have several options for creating a valid will in North Carolina, including working with a North Carolina-licensed attorney or using an online service provider. If you choose to file your will for safekeeping, contact the Clerk of the Superior Court for your county to determine the process and fees for doing so.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.