What to Know About Last-Minute Will Changes

Estate Planning

Any competent individual over the age of 18 can create or update their Will in North Carolina. Sometimes a simple codicil (amendment) is sufficient in reflecting an individual’s wishes, but in other situations a completely new Will should be prepared. What if someone has a change of heart near the end-of-life and suddenly wants to make a change to his or her Will?

Changing a Will at the last minute in North Carolina may have serious consequences on estate distribution. Estate disputes are more likely to result after a last-minute change.Beneficiaries—and those not named as beneficiaries—may contest the terms of the Will.
When a Will is updated shortly before the decedent’s death, a dispute may arise over whether or not the decedent had been pressured to make changes regarding distribution of his or her estate. Allegations of undue influence are commonly cited in contested Will cases. An argument may also be made that the decedent’s judgment had been impaired by failing health in the short time before his or her death. An estate that could have been distributed with no issues may be delayed for many years before the court makes a decision.
There is also a possibility—a greater possibility when an individual creates their own Will—that a quick last-minute change could cause an important detail with regard to validity of the Will and its execution to be mistaken or overlooked. Even with seemingly simple matters, changes to a Will should be handled by legal counsel. An estate planning attorney can not only prepare the correct documents, but can provide advice about avoiding or minimizing probate and taxes.
If a family member or other party wants to contest the validity of a Will in North Carolina, according to the NC General Statutes:
If an interested party contests the validity of the will, that person must file a caveat before the hearing or raise an issue of devisavit vel non at the hearing. Upon the filing of a caveat or raising of an issue of devisavit vel non, the clerk shall transfer the cause to the superior court, and the matter shall be heard as a caveat proceeding.
Regular estate planning reviews help ensure that Wills and other documents are current, avoiding the risks of last-minute changes.
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