Here is my answer:

An on-line will, if it contains all the necessary provisions the law requires and it is signed as the law requires, CAN be valid. But there are just too many things which can go wrong with homegrown wills in their provisions and execution (signing). A stopped clock is right twice a day, and it is an apt comparison to filling out so-called legal forms on the internet without a trained person supervising their signing.

We all want to know we are getting a fair shake about the costs of services, especially for professional services. But the price quoted for a will sounds reasonable and consistent with what is fair to the consumer. As importantly, lawyers who practice in this area of the law will tell you of many unintended , and costly, consequences of dealing with homegrown estate planning  documents which are not valid after it is too late to modify them so they comply with the law.

If cost is a driving concern, the writer should contact the Wake Forest Law School Clinic for the Elderly.  If you are a senior citizen (60/62 or older) and your monthly income is limited, senior citizens can get many standard estate planning documents prepared and signed by lawyers/fully supervised law students without charge for the legal services. The telephone number for the Clinic is 336.758.5430. (elder-clinic.law.wfu.edu.) The director of the Clinic, Kate Mewhinney, does a good job of managing the clinic.

Another helpful service is the North Carolina Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service.  You can get a 30-minute conference with a licensed NC lawyer in your geographical area of the state for no more than $50. You can ask that lawyer what the lawyer’s firm charges for a will. (800.662.7660).

The general difficulty with pulling forms off the internet and signing them is that you do not know fully if they comply with North Carolina law.  But more than that, it is the way the documents are signed.  If the statutes are not followed about whether the witnesses qualify to be witnesses, and whether the parties and the witnesses sign in compliance with the law, the wills are not valid. Unlike the game of horseshoes, being “close” to legal does not count.  When that happens, the state of North Carolina essentially writes a will for you.  If you have children of the marriage, or, if no children, the decedent has a surviving parent, the surviving spouse splits the property inherited with others.  The result is rarely satisfactory.

When one dies, an invalid will cannot be probated, that is, treated as the controlling wishes of the testator (the person who signs a will.) When one dies without a will, the statutes of North Caroline define what heirs receive what property. In certain but very limited circumstances (little or no assets subject to probate, such as non-probate accounts with right of survivorship provisions), it may not be necessary to probate the estate of a decedent. But there are still some items to be handled. (Filing for life insurance benefits, and the like.) If there are any assets to be probated, it is likely one would need to hire a lawyer to sort out all the issues and distribute the assets as the law requires.