Probate Attorney in Cary, North Carolina
Probate in North Carolina, What Is It and How Does It Work?
Probate is a County governmental procedure and it is a legal process. Probate happens in the County of residence at death and/or where real estate is located. NC has 100 counties and thus 100 different ways of doing it. Probate is the legal process North Carolina law prescribes on how your estate will be handled and administered. It is the process in which your final expenses and debts are paid. If there is money or assets leftover over, Probate is the legal process of transferring your estate assets to your beneficiaries. Whether you die with or without a Will, if you have money in bank accounts, a car, a house, or other assets titled in your name, your family has no choice but to go through a Court Supervised Probate process to pay your debts and hopefully, inherit what is left after court costs, executor compensation, legal fees, appraisals, accounting costs, and taxes.
Probate is supervised by the County Clerk of Court in the County where the decedent (deceased person) lived or where the decedent owned real estate. In most larger Counties, Clerk of Court has assistants or deputies who handle day-to-day matters. Probate is a legal court proceeding. It typically does not include a Judge, unless there is a contested case. This means there is no Judge involvement unless a beneficiary or creditor disagrees with the Executor and "sues" to exercise or protect his/her/its rights.
If the estate is small, the Probate process is sometimes simpler and quicker. There are many names used for "Probate" and there are several "types" of Probate. Every Probate includes getting specific court forms, filling them out, filing them with the Clerk of Court, record keeping, reporting, keeping and submitting documentation, accounting, signing forms in front of a notary, mailing notices, taking oaths, trips to the courthouse, mailing documents to the Clerk of Court, and more.
The Last Will and Testament is a key document in this process. It must be filed with the court and strictly followed. If there is no Will, or the Will doesn't fully dispose of all the estate assets, then North Carolina Intestate Succession Law dictates what happens, who gets what, and how they get it.
Most people find Probate lengthy, expensive, and undesirable because involves tedious legal paperwork, detailed record-keeping, financial accountings, repeated filings at the courthouse, and creating a public record of personal finances. If you went through probate and did not experience this you or your loved one's estate probably hired an attorney to take care of it.
Many people hire an attorney to help them go through Probate (estate adminstration) because they did not know what to do, the process and/or forms were confusing, they did not want to do something wrong, they didn't want to get into trouble with the law or the estate beneficiaries, and/or because the courthouse staff cannot give legal advice. The court is prohibited by law from giving "advise". Many times they want to help but can't. Sometimes they don't want to help. For those reasons, most people, at some point, will hire an attorney to help or do it for them.
Depending on what you own, who your beneficiaries are, and how much your estate is worth, going through Probate may be a fine or good route. However, it is best to know how Probate will impact your estate in your particular situation.
What Documents Do I Need for Probate?
After a loved one dies, the key documents you need are (1) death certificate, (2) the original Last Will and Testament, and (3) court forms specific to your situation.
A good resource to consult is the North Carolina Administrative Office for the Courts' Estate Procedures for Executors, Administrators, Collectors By Affidavit, and Summary Administration booklet. CLICK HERE for a convenient copy.
I Am Confused and Have Questions the Court Won't Answer!
You're not alone. Most people going through this process get confused and can't get answers. If you're in this situation, I would like to try and help. CLICK HERE to set up a complimentary consultation.