Probate Process

When a loved one dies, the legal process of overseeing the placement of their assets can be a complex and tedious procedure. However, King Law has a team of knowledgeable lawyers willing to walk you through this process known as probate. Probate is the court-supervised legal process that places an individual in charge of handling the deceased’s estate. Until the probate process starts, the deceased individual’s assets will remain in their name. While this process does entail some hurdles, having an attorney alongside you from the beginning of the process can make this legal step much easier.

To prepare for the probate process, your attorney will need to determine if probate is required in your situation. The process begins at the Clerk of Superior Court in the deceased’s county of residence. Either the executor named in the will or a person qualified to be administrator submits an application to the clerk, requesting to be named as the personal representative. The application must be accompanied by the will, if there is one, and a preliminary inventory of the estate property, including an estimated value, and a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate. After the personal representative is appointed, they must take an oath of office, promising to faithfully carry out their duties as the deceased’s personal representative.

In addition, within three months from the date of qualification, the personal representative is required to file a complete and accurate inventory of all real and personal property of the decedent, including descriptions of said property and the values of that property, with the Clerk of the Superior Court.

The assets of the estate are put into an estate bank account and used to pay all debts, costs, and expenses, including bills, liens, funeral and burial expenses, and taxes. Additionally, state and federal income tax returns may need to be filed on the remaining assets. For some estates, federal estate taxes may be due as well.

For small estates, North Carolina has a simplified process which allows you to wrap up the estate without formal probate. This process applies to estates with personal property valued at $20,000, or $30,000 if the surviving spouse inherits everything under state law. North Carolina also has a simplified probate process called summary administration which applies if the surviving spouse is the sole heir.

After all outstanding costs are paid, the personal representative then divides the remaining assets to the heirs and beneficiaries per the will’s instructions or under the North Carolina law regarding intestate succession if there is no will. When all the assets have placed with the appropriate heirs and beneficiaries, the personal representative files a final accounting with the Clerk of the Superior Court. The Clerk then approves the final accounting if everything is in order, discharging the personal representative from any further responsibility for the estate.

The clerk of court cannot give legal advice, so if the documents needed for probate are done incorrectly, the clerk cannot tell you how to correct your forms. However, using an attorney to assist you in the probate process will make the work involved much less stressful and will ensure that all of the legal requirements are met. King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. If you are an executor or administrator in a probate process or would like to prepare a will or trust to make matters easier on your loved ones after your passing, contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.

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