There are situations in which a person can have a legally binding will that's not written. Nuncupative (oral) wills are allowed here in North Carolina if a person's death is imminent. That's why they're sometimes also referred to as deathbed wills.
There are restrictions on nuncupative wills. For example, in North Carolina, the person who is dying must ask two people to witness the dictation of the will. The instructions that comprise the will need to be written down as soon as possible. Further, a nuncupative will cannot supersede a person's written will.
North Carolina is one of the few states that recognizes nuncupative wills. While it's certainly not preferable to a detailed will drafted with the guidance of an estate planning attorney, it can provide some value to the loved ones ho will be left behind.Testators of noncupative wills can make their wishes known about the disbursal of their assets, where they want to be buried and other matters.
A nuncupative will can allow someone to have a final say in their end-of-life care if they didn't already make those wishes known in an estate plan. It can also reduce the chances that a person's assets will go to a close family member they don't want to have them because of a probate judge's decision.
A nuncupative will may reduce the chances of family conflict after a person has passed away. However, it may also create conflict. If a family member or someone else disputes something that is (or is not) included in that will, it's up to a judge to decide how much weight to give that will. Noncupative wills are not considered binding documents.
If you have a loved one who left a nuncupative will, regardless of whether anyone is contesting it or not, it's wise to seek the guidance of an estate planning attorney who knows North Carolina laws regarding this kind of will.