• Blog Post

    ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ that Aretha Franklin’s children have ‘Respect’ and Are Not a ‘Chain of Fools’

    American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16 at the age of 76 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. In the days following her passing, her four sons filed documents with the Michigan Probate Court stating that Aretha passed without a will or trust, and claimed to be interested parties in her estate. Aretha’s niece, Sabrina Garrett Owens is the personal representative to administer the estate. When a person dies with a will, the probate court uses that and other documents (such as a trust), to guide them in determining the proper distribution of the deceased’s assets. However, when a person dies without a will, or “intestate,” their…

  • Blog Post

    Holographic Wills and Statutory Requirements to Modify Them

    The law distinguishes between typewritten wills, typically prepared by an attorney, and those which are handwritten by oneself. Handwritten wills, known as holographic wills, must meet the statutory requirements set forth by N.C Gen. Stat. S 31-3.4 (2015). These requirements include: (1) the will must be written entirely by hand by the testator; (2) must be subscribed by the testator;  and (3) must be found among the testator’s valuable papers or effects. In some cases after a will is drafted, whether by hand or typewritten, the testator my wish to make modifications. An addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will, or part of a will, is a…

  • John C Lindley III
    Blog Post

    Six Ways to Challenge a Will’s Validity

              Wills must meet several basic requirements to be valid and enforceable under state law.  If any of the below factors are at work, then a will’s validity may be challenged.   (1) Undue Influence              Undue influence exists when a person uses coercion to influence the testator (the person creating a will) into executing a will that does not accurately reflect the testator’s true wishes.  There are several red flags to keep in mind if you are suspicious a loved one’s will is the product of undue influence.  Unusual dispositions of property, sickness and vulnerability of the testator to undue influence,…

  • Blog Post

    Caveat to a Caveat to a Will: North Carolina Court of Appeals Offers Non-Binding Opinion

              In October the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion addressing the circumstances under which it is appropriate to grant a motion to dismiss in the context of a will caveat.[1]  A caveat is a legal challenge to the probate of a will when there is confusion or disagreement as to the interpretation of the will.  The three issues addressed were: (1) can a caveat challenge only a part of a will; (2) can an executor who presents a will for probate later file a caveat; and (3) can one who accepts a benefit under a will later challenge its validity via caveat?…

  • Blog Post

    Challenging the Validity of a Will vs. the Construction of a Will: North Carolina Court of Appeals Clarifies

                  Earlier in September the North Carolina Court of Appeals highlighted the procedural difference between challenging the validity of a will through a caveat proceeding and resolving questions as to the construction of a will through an action for declaratory judgment.[1]                   Plaintiff, Deborah Hildebran (“Hildebran”) was listed as the executrix of her father’s will (the “Will”).  Upon her father’s death, the Will was probated in common form before the clerk and Hildebran was appointed executrix.  The Will contained several handwritten markings, notably a line that struck through the name of the testator’s granddaughter Chanté Brittian…

  • Blog Post

    N.C. Court of Appeals: Caveators Were Not Prejudiced By Dead Man’s Statute Since the Jury “heard the gist of caveators’ evidence.”

              In 1960 Charles Pickelsimer (“Charles”) inherited significant stock holdings in a family telecommunications company.[1]  Over the next 45 years, Charles gave his children and grandchildren stock certificates as gifts.  When he sold the company in 2008 for $65 million, Charles and his children received significant cash distributions.  In 2009, Charles and his wife executed an estate plan to protect their assets, and their children were the primary beneficiaries.  Charles was diagnosed with mild dementia and memory loss in January 2010, and his wife died in March of that year.  His condition continued to subsequently decline. Charles executed a new estate plan in August 2010 (“2010…