Legal Memorandum: Holographic Will in NC

Issue: What is considered a holographic will in North Carolina?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate
Keywords: Signature is not required; Holographic will
Jurisdiction: Federal, North Carolina
Cited Cases: 850 P.2d 158; 287 N.C. 26; 213 S.E.2d 207; 88 N.C. App. 251; 970 P.2d 1286
Cited Statutes: N.C. Gen. Stat. §31-3.4
Date: 05/01/2011

In North Carolina, a holographic will is a will that is—

(1) written entirely in the handwriting of the testator . . . , (2) subscribed to by the testator, or with his name written in or on the will in his own handwriting, and (3) found after the testator’s death among his valuable papers or effects, or in a safe-deposit box . . . or in the possession or custody of some person with whom, or some firm or corporation with which, it was deposited by him or under his authority for safe keeping.


N.C. Gen. Stat. §31-3.4.  A signature is not required, though the testator’s handwritten name must appear somewhere on the document.  40 Op. Att’y Gen. 36 (1969).  North Carolina case law states that the writing also needs testamentary intent.  See Stephans v. McPherson, 88 N.C. App. 251, 362 S.E.2d  826 (1987); In re Mucci, 287 N.C. 26, 213 S.E.2d 207 (1975). 

If there is evidence establishing that a writing was found in the required safe place, it probably would be considered a holographic will.  See, e.g., Estate of Kleinman, 970 P.2d 1286 (Utah 1998) (one document was signed and dated, other document was not; statute specifically provided that testamentary “memorandum” disposing of personal property could not dispose of money, but a holographic will could; at issue was whether decedent validly directed that money go to Humane Society and when holographic will was […]

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