After someone dies, the legal process begins to substantiate their will and determine who receives the assets of the deceased person’s estate. In many cases, the court must appoint a representative for the deceased person to gather the deceased person’s assets, pay debts and handle the distribution of property to the heirs. The court-supervised administration of the estate is known as the probate process.
An administrator of the estate – an executor or executrix, personal representative, or trustee – handles these duties according to procedures defined by North Carolina probate law and decisions handed down by a judge. The fiduciary’s fundamental duty is to protect the assets and interests of each of the estate’s beneficiaries, regardless of whether they have conflicting interests and desires. One way to protect those assets and interests and help the probate process go smoothly is to be organized and have the guidance of an experienced probate attorney.
What is Probate Administration?
Probate administration is the process of validating the will of a person who has died and carrying out its directives or administering the distribution of assets of an individual who has died without a will. Estate administration is handling a person’s assets and debts after that person’s death.
When there is a will, “probating the will” refers to the process by which a court determines that the will is the final will and testament of the deceased individual and is legally valid for transferring ownership of property. If a will has been properly drafted and documented by an estate planning attorney, this is likely a simple process. Some wills are not valid because they lack the legal requirements of a valid will. Regardless, a will has no legal effect until it is probated by a court.
When a person dies without leaving a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.” The laws of intestate succession provide the rules for distributing the property of people who die without a valid will. Most people who write a will leave their property to their immediate family, so intestacy laws generally distribute property in the same way.
How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death?
Initiating probate administration requires:
- Determining whether there is a will and locating it.
- Filing the will with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the person resided before death.
- If there is no will, applying to the Clerk of Superior Court as the surviving spouse or another heir to be appointed administrator to handle the estate. That also requires a preliminary inventory of the assets of the estate.
- Completing and filing all necessary paperwork to become a personal representative of the estate.
The steps above should be undertaken as soon as possible after a death.
Once the paperwork is on file, the Clerk of Superior Court will issue a written authorization for the person named as the executor of the deceased’s will (or the surviving spouse or other heirs if there is no will) to fulfill the duties of a personal representative of the estate. The personal representative must submit an oath to carry out those duties.
Contact Us About Help with Probate Administration
At Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, we can guide you if you are the personal representative or beneficiary of the estate so that you avoid the hidden complications of probate. Our experienced and compassionate estate administration attorneys can offer trusted guidance and help you get everything done right from the start. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.