Understanding The Probate Process in North Carolina

Let McIntyre Law walk you through the essential steps and strategies involved in estate planning, probate, and estate administration in North Carolina. Whether you’re a beginner or seeking clarity on specific aspects of probate law, we’ve got you covered. Join us as we explore how to protect your assets, navigate through the North Carolina probate process, and ensure your loved ones’ legacies are preserved.

Understanding Probate in North Carolina – The Process, Timeline, and Its Significance

Probate is the court-supervised legal process of collecting, managing, and distributing the assets and other property of a deceased person’s estate. Probate and estate administration constitute the legal process initiated upon a person’s death to facilitate the transition of assets, such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and other investments.

This process, a key part of the North Carolina probate process, holds true regardless of whether the deceased left a will or not, essentially legalizing the change in ownership of assets. The journey of probate might appear intimidating, but with thorough understanding, it can become a manageable task.

Role of the Last Will & Testament in North Carolina Probate

In order to be probated, your will should be correctly drafted, self-proving, and original. In the absence of a self-proving will, the witnesses may need to testify or sign affidavits, asserting that they saw you sign the will. This highlights the importance of robust estate planning or pre-planning, which ensures that foundational documents, like the will, are correctly set up and ready for probate when the time comes.

A well-constructed will plays a pivotal role during probate, leading the division and distribution of the assets of the estate according to your preferences. The journey of probate begins by submitting the will at the courthouse. The will should adhere to certain legal prerequisites under probate law for its successful probate. The probate process can be overwhelming and challenging, so it is important to seek professional assistance from a probate attorney.

Roles & Responsibilities of the Executor during the Probate Process

Assuming letters of probate are issued by the court, the executor, sometimes called a personal representative, will qualify to administer the probate estate. The probate process requires publishing the decedent’s death in the newspaper for four consecutive weeks, starting the 90-day lien period. This period allows anyone to whom the decedent owed money to attach a lien to the estate. An executor needs to be aware of the necessary documents needed for probate and should begin collecting those documents as the process begins.  

Managing Assets During Probate

Another significant responsibility of navigating North Carolina’s probate process is taking a preliminary inventory of the estate. As an executor begins to manage and settle a loved one’s estate, their duties include taking stock of all potential probate and non-probate assets. All assets must be accounted for before closing the estate, and potential creditors of the estate must also be tracked down, making this an important responsibility. 

Safeguarding Assets from Liens

Healthcare liens, Medicaid claims (if applicable), debt, and other claims against the estate can pose significant challenges during the North Carolina probate process. This is especially true when assets such as a home go through probate. Asset protection strategies like life estate deeds or ladybird deeds can help protect these assets for the family and avoid their subjection to the probate process. Having a probate lawyer to help guide you can make the process less overwhelming. 

Distinguishing Probate and Non-Probate Properties

Probate properties, otherwise known as small estates, are those assets that need their title changed through the probate process. While many are, not all assets are subject to probate. Certain assets, such as titles to properties, vehicles, or bank accounts, can be arranged to change outside of probate through payable-on-death beneficiaries, joint tenants with rights of survivorship, or beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or trusts.

Trusts offer the added advantage of being private, thus acting as a guide for avoiding the public North Carolina probate process.

Surviving the 90-Day Lien Period and Keeping Track of Assets

North Carolina law includes a 90-day lien period during probate. Assuming no liens have been attached during the 90-day lien period, the executor can then distribute assets to the heirs. However, this assumes that no one has contested the will in a will caveat suit or will contest, which can lead to further litigation.

The probate process also includes managing and keeping track of the estate’s assets, wherein the personal representative plays a crucial role. There’s a 90-day inventory, possible annual inventories if the probate process extends beyond a year, and final inventories to conclude the process.

Ensuring Executor Accountability

Should there be concerns about an executor misusing the funds, there are safety nets that can be employed by the probate court. One such measure in the probate law is requiring the executor, or the personal representative, to post bond. This bond serves as insurance coverage that would reimburse any heir for the misuse of funds by the executor. Additionally, the Clerk of the Superior Court monitors the executor’s activities closely, requiring them to adhere strictly to the stipulations of the will.

If you are dealing with a probate estate in North Carolina, you are not powerless. Even if you’re not the executor or worried if you’ve made someone an executor of your will, there are systems in place to ensure that the probate process is transparent and efficient. If you require assistance with estate planning, will drafting, probate avoidance strategies, or probate administration in the Superior Court, it is important to seek an estate planning attorney.

Don’t Navigate the Process of Probate Alone

The probate process can be challenging. Whether you are an executor or a beneficiary, we’ll guide you through the process of settling an estate and help you navigate the process.

At McIntyre Elder Law, we specialize in crafting personalized strategies focused on asset protection, safeguarding your financial well-being, to help you navigate the complexities of elder law with confidence. Your peace of mind is our priority — take control of your financial future today. Contact us at (888) 999-6600 or attend a free event to get started today. 

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Greg McIntyre, JD, MBA

Meet Greg McIntyre

Greg McIntyre, founder of McIntyre Elder Law, is more than just an attorney. As a Navy Veteran, father to six kids, and a loving husband, he values family deeply. This drives his commitment to helping clients safeguard their futures and pass down legacies.

Greg has a passion to help people. Beyond just legal advice, he loves having conversations and strives to build a long-term relationship with every clients that comes through his door.

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