When a person dies, the legal process of establishing whether there is a valid will, what the decedent’s assets are, which debts will be paid and who will inherit the remaining assets is called probate. Probate is handled differently in each state. In North Carolina, an Estates Department is a part of the Clerk of Court in each county. Probate is handled in the county where a person lived at the time of their death. Probate assets are those things that are titled in the decedent’s own name that do not have beneficiary designations. If there is an original valid will, that document is filed with the probate department and lays out the roadmap for the disposition of the estate assets. The will also names an Executor or Personal Representative, who quarterbacks the probate process. Probate is a public process and the will is a matter of public record.
If a decedent does not have a valid, original will, his or her assets will be distributed according to the default statutory instructions. These provisions are called intestacy statues and describe how the estate is divided and who receives the assets.
Settling the decedent’s debts is an important part of the probate process. Before assets are distributed to heirs, all valid debts must be paid. However, creditors are only entitled to the decedent’s probate assets. If there are insufficient assets to pay debts, creditors only receive a fraction. State statues determine the order debts are paid.
We are experienced advisors and advocates in the process of estate administration and trust administration. Our familiarity with the probate process and court personnel allows us to minimize conflict and delays.
If you find yourself in probate, we will guide you every step of the way, from lodging the Will and notifying heirs, to transferring assets to the intended beneficiaries. We understand this is often an emotional and unfamiliar process, so we do all we can to ensure you can confidently and efficiently comply with your legal responsibility as a fiduciary.