North Carolina Probate Laws 2024 – All You Need To Know

Just like any other state in the U.S., North Carolina proudly offers its residents a structured probate process under the law. These probate laws are governed by North Carolina statutes and help to ensure that after anyone passes away, their assets are distributed to their exact wishes. It also helps to make sure that any outstanding debt and taxes are paid off to remove that burden from any surviving family and friends. Having an understanding of North Carolina’s probate laws can help make sure your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your passing.

What Is Probate?

Legal jargon can sometimes confuse what is a relatively simple concept. Probate refers to the legal process where a will is verified in court and then supervised to ensure its distribution remains compliant. If someone passes on without making an official will, the assets will then be distributed according to North Carolina’s intestacy laws. For example, the closest family members of the departed without a will could receive the individual’s home even though there is no documented history of that request.

When Do You Need to Go Through the Probate Process in North Carolina?

There are a number of different reasons why someone may have to go through the probate process to satisfy a loved one’s estate after they pass away. Some factors that will determine if you must advance through probate include:

  • The Existence of Probate Assets
    Probate will be required when the deceased owned assets in their sole name without ever identifying and designating beneficiaries. Because there is no legal indication of their intention, the court must get involved. Some examples of these assets could include a bank account, real estate, or any personal property under their sole name.
  • The Estate Is Small
    North Carolina offers a simplified probate process for anyone who has a traditionally small estate. When the estate’s value is below the $20,000 threshold, it could qualify for the small estate administration process. If the only surviving beneficiary is the individual’s spouse, then the threshold increases to $30,000. Real estate property, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies are not required to be calculated into the threshold if there is already a beneficiary identified.
  • The Individual Died Without a Will
    When this happens, North Carolina considers them to have died “intestate.” This means there is no record of what that individual wants to do with their estate, so the power is given to the court. It is impossible for intestate individuals to avoid probate.
  • There Are Outstanding Debts and Claims
    Probate may be necessary to settle any debts that still exist or claims against the estate. For example, the court may want to evaluate what is the most effective method to satisfy any amount of money owed to creditors based on the assets available in the individual’s estate. This is especially true if the deceased individual identified how they would like these to be dealt with, but changing circumstances now prevent the original plan from being able to satisfy them.

FAQs About North Carolina Probate Laws

What Are the Probate Steps in North Carolina?

The first step in the North Carolina probate process is to file the deceased’s will if it exists. This is typically completed at the local county clerk’s office. Next, an executor or estate administrator will be appointed to handle the estate’s affairs. This individual is responsible for taking an inventory of the assets and notifying creditors of how pending debts will be paid off. Once those are settled, any remaining assets are to be distributed to the beneficiaries designated on the will. If no will exists, the state intestacy laws will override.

How Long Does the Probate Process Typically Take?

There are a ton of variables that can impact how fast or short a probate process ends up being. The more complex an estate, the longer one can expect the process to last. A large number of assets, such as multiple real estate properties, are an example of what a “complex” estate could look like compared to simple, more traditional scenarios. On average, one can expect the process to be settled between six and 12 months.

What Happens When There Is a Dispute About a Will During Probate?

If, at any point during the process, a dispute over the validity of the will is raised, the North Carolina probate court will have to get involved. To reach a resolution, a number of court hearings will have to occur to assess the scenario. In some cases, the conflict will advance to a formal trial. This can be frustrating, as a trial can considerably lengthen the probate process. Hiring a Statesville, NC probate attorney can help to ensure the process of dispute resolution is as compliant and efficient as possible.

Are Executors Compensated in North Carolina?

Executors of a will are typically allowed to claim up to 5% of the estate assets due to the responsibility they have to ensure the deceased’s estate is managed and settled for with great care. This must be approved by the court before the individual receives any formal payment. An individual’s will can specify the amount to be paid to their executor, which will simplify the consideration. However, a will can also indicate that the executor is not to be paid. It is always recommended to consult with legal counsel to make sure you understand the compensation possibilities along with the rights and duties required of the role.

Contact Lassiter & Lassiter Today

If you are facing the prospect of probate and would appreciate legal oversight, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys of Lassiter & Lassiter. For years, we have grown to understand the nuances of probate and what makes each case unique. We are driven to help people just like you who are not professionally educated on probate and estate law. Allow us to guide you through the process to make sure that all assets are distributed as the departed intended. We look forward to meeting you and hearing more about how we can help.

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Call our office at 704-873-2295 or email us today.

Attorney Mike Lassiter grew up in Statesville, makes his living serving the people of Statesville and published a book capturing the changing landscape of small town life across North Carolina and Iredell County. His keen sense of history, dedication to the area and 30 years of legal experience make him an ideal attorney for your legal needs.

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