Not surprisingly, in Hankins v. Bartlett the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that a contract between a husband and wife to make and keep in force reciprocal wills must satisfy the statute of frauds. If you’re interested in why, keep reading.

Under North Carolina law, a contract to maintain reciprocal wills is not created by the mere concurrent execution of wills. There must be something more. That something more is specific contractual language manifesting an intent to create such a contract, either in a separate document such as a trust agreement, or in the wills themselves.

It’s hornbook law that an oral contract to convey or to devise real property is void by reason of the statute of frauds, and the wills at issue in Hankins v. Bartlett involved the conveyance of real property. So the court seemed to leave open the question of whether a contract to make reciprocal wills that do not convey real property must be in writing.