If you are here to learn about North Carolina probate after the passing of a loved one, we first want to say that we are very sorry for your loss. We hope that the information you find on this page will simplify any legal and administrative headaches you might otherwise face during such a difficult time.
With that said, probate in North Carolina is a court-supervised procedure that helps to ensure the legal transfer of assets from the deceased to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries. Probate in Durham County is also necessary to:
- Prove the validity of the will
- Appoint someone to manage the estate (The “administrator” if there is no will or the “executor” if there is one)
- Inventory and appraise the estate property
- Pay any debts or taxes (including estate taxes)
- Distribute the property as direct by the will—or by the state law if there is no will
What’s so bad about probate in North Carolina… and what should I do next?
Many residents in Durham County have heard that probate is bad news. It tends to be very expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it’s also a public process.
The easiest way to avoid the probate process is to plan; but if you are now in a situation where you must go through probate courts to finalize the estate of a loved one, the best thing you can do is get educated and get help to complete the process as quickly, and cost-effectively, as possible.
How is a Probate Started in North Carolina?
Although any beneficiary or creditor can initiate probate, normally the person named in the will as the Executor starts the process by filing the original will with the court and filing a [Application For Probate And Letters, Form AOC-E-201, with the probate court. If there is no will, typically a close relative of the decedent who expects to inherit from the estate will file the application.
How is the Executor Chosen?
If the decedent had a will, the person named in the will as the Executor will serve, if eligible. If that person is unable or unwilling to serve as Executor, or if there is no Will, then any interested family member or person can petition the Court to be the administrator of the Estate.
Could I Be Held Personally Liable For Making a Mistake as an Executor?
Being an Executor is a big responsibility. North Carolina law contains pages upon pages of complex legal rules and procedures that an Executor must follow during the probate. Also, there are certain deadlines that an Executor must meet in filing papers with the Court. If an Executor violates any of these rules, they may be held personally liable for losses to the estate.
My loved one had a trust…will we need to go through probate?
In most cases, no. If your loved one’s assets are owned in the name of a Trust, the family can contact a lawyer who will complete some paperwork and guide the loved ones through the process with ease without the need for court involvement. To speak to someone about property held in Trust, please click here.
Unfortunately, many people who have a Trust think they have it all taken care of. But time and again, family members’ of a recently passed loved one come into my office and they find out they are facing the frustration, expense and delay of probate, even though the person they loved had a trust.