When someone dies, their assets should pass to the people they want to have them. If the decedent made a will or owned property in their own name in North Carolina, their estate would need to go through probate.
It is important that you seek the advice of a licensed attorney when you need to present a will to the court to begin the probate process or if you have been appointed the administrator and are considering making decisions regarding probate administration.
What Is Probate?
Probate administration is the formal legal process that enables the distribution of a decedent’s assets to their heirs. Probate is governed by state statutes. Decedents who die without a will have their assets disbursed according to the laws of intestacy. A decedent who dies “intestate” is one who dies without a valid will.
A decedent’s assets must go through probate and need to be disbursed according to the laws in effect in the State of North Carolina. When the assets go through probate, they’ll be distributed according to the decedent’s wishes by the executor of the estate. If no executor was designated in the will, the surviving spouse, any beneficiaries, next of kin, or other specific parties may apply to become the executor of the estate. If no one was named executor and no one applies to become executor, the court will appoint one.
The Probate Timeline
The clerk of court’s office is the physical space where probate administration begins in the State of North Carolina. An application is presented to the clerk of court by the executor named in the will. The application can be presented at any time after the death by the executor named in the will. If no executor was named, an application to become executor may be presented no earlier than 60 days after the date of death.
A complete application to enter the will into probate contains the decedent’s will, the value and nature of the decedent’s property, the names and addresses of all named beneficiaries, and a certified copy of the death certificate. The clerk of the court will notify any beneficiaries in the will where the addresses are known.
The executor will publish a notice of the probate proceeding in a local paper once a week for four weeks. This notifies creditors of the death and that they should bring their claims against the estate within three months of the first date of publication. The executor must also send creditors notice of the decedent’s probate administration. The taxes, funeral costs, and debts of the decedent are paid off before any assets are distributed to the heirs.
Beneficiaries and heirs will receive what remains of the estate. If the decedent died without a valid will, the assets would be disbursed according to the laws of intestacy in North Carolina. A complete accounting of the estate administration will be filed with the clerk of court.
In cases where the estate is simple and uncontested, the entire probate process can be completed within six months. However, the larger the estate, the longer the process is likely to take. Additionally, any will contest or lawsuit alleging misconduct by the executor will make the process considerably longer.
How We Can Help
The probate attorneys at Mullen Holland & Cooper P.A. understand how difficult it can be to deal with the different tasks associated with formal and informal probate administration. If you have questions about how an estate is administered, contact us today at 704-864-6751 to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you manage the probate process.