Probate is the legal process of granting someone authority over a deceased person’s estate.
Probate allows a person to:
- gather assets;
- pay debts;
- pay taxes; and
- transfer assets to the deceased’s benefactors.
In North Carolina, probate isn’t always a necessary step after someone dies and depends on the value of the deceased’s estate.
When Is Probate Not Necessary?
A probate court process is only required if the deceased solely owned assets. However, if there are any jointly owned assets, they are generally transferred to the other person’s name.
Examples of jointly owned assets include:
- any property the deceased owned with another person while they cohabitated;
- real estate owned with a spouse;
- assets in which a beneficiary has been named outside of a will (retirement accounts or certain bank accounts);
- life insurance or pension benefits that are payable to a certain person; and/or
- assets in a revocable living trust.
Estates that are valued less than $20,000 ($30,000 if the sole heir is a surviving spouse) do not need to go through the probate process.
When Is Probate Necessary?
Probateis necessary when an estate exceeds a small estate threshold and/or the deceased did not create a will.
The procedure required to settle an estate in North Carolina is as follows:
- A will must be filed in the Superior Court in the county where the deceased lived.
- A Petition for Probate must be filed in the Superior Court in the county where the deceased lived. If there is no will, the court will appoint a person to serve as the estate representative.
- The court will issue Letters Testamentary to the executor or personal representative of the estate, thereby giving them legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
- Notice of the probate action must be printed in a newspaper where the deceased lived. Creditors have 3 months after the date of publication to make a claim to the estate.
- An inventory of the estate must be filed with the court within 3 months of the executor appointment.
- Once all creditors and taxes have been paid, a petition to close the probate must be filed.
- The court will issue an order to distribute the estate’s property to all valid beneficiaries.
Estate Planning Attorneys You Can Trust
Our attorneys at Rech Law, P.C. are exceptionally skilled at all estate planning processes. We can help you construct a solid will or trust that can ease probate in the future.
Contact our firm online or give us a call at (704) 659-0007 to schedule a consultation.