North Carolina Probate Process
When faced with the daunting task of handling the estate of a loved one, most people feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. Unfortunately, the Clerk of Court’s Office is prohibited by statute from providing legal advice and is therefore unable to help determine which kind of estate is best suited for a particular situation. This article will provide a basic overview of the probate process for opening a full estate administration.
Steps to Probate an Estate
1. Find out whether there is a will. If there is a will, there should be a named Executor for the estate. The Executor is the person who will handle the probate process and protect the assets of the estate. If there is no will, this is an intestate estate and an Administrator must be appointed, usually a spouse or child of the decedent.
2. The Executor or Administrator will apply for Letters. This requires filling out an application, taking an oath, and filing the original will (if there is one) and a death certificate. The cost for filing is $120.
3. Once Letters are issued, the Administrator/Executor will apply for an EIN number. This EIN number will allow them to open an estate bank account to deposit estate assets into.
4. The next step is to file a Notice to Creditors in a newspaper in the County where the estate was opened. Creditors will have three months to respond to this Notice.
a. You should provide individual notice to known creditors.
5. After 90 days you will file an Inventory. An Inventory is a snapshot of all the probate and non-probate assets the decedent owned on the date of their death. The Clerk’s filing fee will be calculated based only on the probate assets.
6. Once the Notice to Creditors time period has expired, if there are enough assets in the estate, you can pay them out of the estate bank account.
7. After paying the debts and expenses of administration, if there are remaining funds and property, they will be distributed to the named beneficiaries in the will or the intestate heirs.
8. The final step is to file a Final Account with the Clerk, showing all assets received, all bills paid, and all distributions made. If you cannot close the estate within one year, you will have to file an annual accounting for each year that the estate remains open.
This list is a simplified version of the process for opening a full estate. Not all situations require the opening of a full estate. Sometimes a Summary Administration, a Spousal Allowance or a Small Estate filing are all that is needed.
While the Clerk of Court will help fill out forms, they cannot provide legal advice. If you are unsure what kind of estate is necessary, an estate administration attorney can advise you on the most cost effective and efficient way to administer the estate. The attorneys at Rudisill Estate & Elder Law Associates are experienced in probate matters. Contact our office if you would like to schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you navigate the North Carolina probate process.
The information provided in this article is provided for general informational purposes only. No information contained in this article should be construed as legal advice from Rudisill Estate & Elder Law Associates, or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on this subject matter.
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