On August 11, 2015, North Carolina became the fifth state in the nation to permit a “living probate" proceeding. Like the laws of the four states before it, the new North Carolina law empowers a court to decide the validity of an individual’s will while that individual is still alive. Generally, if the court determines the will is valid, that order is binding. In North Carolina, however, it may not be. In this state, an interested party may challenge a will after the testator has died, even though a court has already found the will valid based on evidence presented by the testator himself. This possibility should not exist. Allowing a post-mortem will contest in this situation destroys the desirability of living probate as an estate planning tool.
This Comment first offers a brief overview of living probate in North Carolina before analyzing benefits and concerns commonly associated with the proceeding. After establishing that the advantages of living probate make it a workable option for many individuals, discussion then turns to the effects of North Carolina’s flawed provision. Because allowing a post-mortem will contest of an already validated will effectively renders living probate pointless, the North Carolina General Assembly should remove the provision entirely.
Kyle Frizzelle, Better to Play Dead: Examining North Carolina's Living Probate Law and Its Potential Effect on Testamentary Disposition, 39 Campbell L. Rev. 187 (2017).