With a few exceptions, most estates are settled through the probate process. If you are unsure as to when probate is required in North Carolina, the firm of Donald R. Fuller, Jr., PLLC in Hickory can help. One exception to standard probate exists when the total value of a decedent’s personal property (excluding real estate) does not exceed $20,000. In these cases, the property can be collected by executing an affidavit. There is also a process called summary probate which can be used when all of a decedent’s property goes to a surviving spouse. Otherwise, assets must be dispersed through the regular probate system. My firm offers knowledgeable, personalized counsel to people drafting, executing and challenging wills regarding a full range of probate issues.
When someone dies, property that they owned must be distributed. Probate is the legal process by which the assets and debts in a decedent’s estate are allocated. In some circumstances, probate runs smoothly, especially when there is a clear, valid will in place. However, problems can arise when no testamentary document exists, where the language is unclear or where there are multiple wills with contradictory terms. There could also be issues if the decedent had substantial debts or the heirs named in the will are minors or incapacitated. My firm handles a full range of probate administration matters, helping estate representatives handle key tasks efficiently.
The property of someone who dies without a will is distributed according to the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act. Under this statute, a decedent’s estate is divided based on the family members who survived them. For example, all of the property of someone who is married but has no living children or parents goes to the surviving spouse. However, if the decedent has children, they get a share of the estate. Without a will, the court appoints someone to serve as administrator of the estate, and depending on the particular circumstances, probate could take a long time, especially if an estranged relative is entitled to an inheritance under the intestacy law.
Many types of property are allocated through the probate system, including real estate, vehicles and tangible items solely owned by the deceased. Investment accounts and other financial holdings might pass to beneficiaries in this manner as well unless there is a “payable on death” or contingent beneficiary designation.
Several types of assets are not distributed through the probate process, including:
When you work with my firm, I will assess your holdings and explain which specific assets would be excluded from your estate when you pass away.
As an experienced North Carolina wills lawyer, I advise on various options that exist for those who want to minimize or eliminate the probate process. By establishing joint ownership or naming a contingent beneficiary, you can ensure that assets, including real estate holdings, go to your surviving spouse or someone else upon your death. My firm also establishes revocable trusts, which fall outside the probate system. Another option is to shift some of your wealth to life insurance policies because the benefits are paid directly upon proof of the insured’s death.
Donald R. Fuller, Jr., PLLC in Hickory assists North Carolina clients with various issues relating to the state’s probate process. You can make an appointment by calling 828-639-8188 or contacting me online.