Dealing with the estate of a deceased loved one can be an unwelcome process for many people. These matters are often emotional, complicated, and stressful. But in the absence of certain types of estate planning that bypass the unpleasant and drawn-out legalities of probate, somebody will have to do it.
A Shelby probate lawyer with Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can ease the burden of what is undoubtedly an already difficult time for you and your family. We provide free case evaluations to North Carolina residents to discuss your needs and how our probate team can help.
In This Article
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process where a deceased person’s property passes through the court system to be distributed to their beneficiaries or heirs based on their last will and testament (commonly referred to as their “will”).
During probate, the court will determine if the decedent’s will is valid and give legal authority to a personal representative to carry out their wishes, account for all assets, pay their debts, and distribute the remaining estate as directed by their will. If the decedent chooses a personal representative, they are called the executor. If they are chosen by the court, they are called estate administrators.
For a legal consultation with a probate lawyer serving Shelby, call 828.286.3866
How Can a Probate Lawyer in Shelby, North Carolina Help?
Probate can be a lengthy and complicated process due to the numerous steps and people involved. Executors of the estate are often faced with a huge undertaking as they deal with the assets of their deceased loved ones.
You will have multiple duties to fulfill, including:
- Locating the will
- Filing the will with the court
- Locating relatives who may be entitled to portions of the estate
- Finding, valuing, and potentially selling assets
- Informing creditors of the death
- Paying off debts and funeral costs
- Disbursing the remaining assets to beneficiaries
This process can be especially complicated for large or complex estates. Additionally, errors in filing or a simple lack of know-how can slow things down. An experienced probate lawyer can help you avoid mistakes during the probate process and keep things moving along as quickly and smoothly as possible. It is also helpful to have legal counsel as mistakes like filing late or misallocating assets could leave the executor personally liable.
A probate attorney can aid in lessening any tension between family members or between executors and beneficiaries. They will be the ones handling much of the communication and can provide clear, legally based explanations. Sometimes family disputes still evolve into probate disputes, leading to the will being contested in court. If that happens, probate litigation will ensue.
For example, a relative or potential beneficiary may challenge:
- The will itself
- The person chosen as executor
- The asset distribution
Having a probate dispute lawyer who can represent you in litigation helps ease your stress and ensures that you are prepared for any challenges that come your way as an executor. A probate attorney can also help beneficiaries protect their rights and interests in probate litigation. Working with you as a beneficiary means that our job is to secure the portion of the estate you are rightfully entitled to receive.
Shelby Probate Lawyer Near Me 828.286.3866
Costs of Probate Proceedings
The costs of probate will vary depending on several factors, such as the size and value of the estate or if the will is contested. Costs and fees associated with probate proceedings include:
- Court and filing fees
- Attorney fees
- Costs of property appraisals
- Costs of litigation
- Executor or Administrator compensation (in North Carolina, this can be up to 5% of the estate)
How Long Is the Probate Process in North Carolina?
Probate could take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Per N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-14-1, the executor of the estate must provide notice to any creditors for four weeks instructing them to file a claim to the estate if they have one. At that point, the creditor has three months to file its claim. This requirement means that any probate process will take at least four months, although it usually requires more.
Any errors in the filing, objections to the will, or difficulty locating or selling assets can make the probate process take even longer. Being represented by a probate lawyer can serve you well by keeping things on track as much as possible.
Simplifying Probate Administration
The estate administration process can be simplified if the spouse of the deceased is the sole heir to their estate. This rule is called summary administration, and it allows a spouse to collect the property without the formal probate process. A beneficiary can also bypass probate by filing a claim via affidavit if the estate is $20,000 or less (or $30,000 for the surviving spouse).
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What If There Is No Will?
The assets of the decedent will pass through probate whether or not there is a valid will in place. However, without a will to direct who receives a portion of the estate and in what amounts, more work is required on the part of the estate executor and the court, extending the probate process. Even if there is a will, it must meet certain legal criteria to be deemed valid. If no valid will is found, the court will appoint someone to execute the estate.
The Court Selects the Heirs
Not having a will also means that no one is named to receive the estate. Under this circumstance, the court will divide the assets between the surviving spouse and children. If there are no children, the spouse and parents receive priority rank. If there is no spouse, the property is distributed between the children and/or descendants of deceased children.
Sometimes, a decedent has none of these relatives. In that case, the estate is distributed to family members in the following order of priority:
- Siblings and descendants of deceased siblings
- Aunts, uncles, and their descendants if they are deceased
Call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC Today for Probate Help
The probate process can be daunting for all surviving family members. Reaching out to a Shelby probate lawyer today can minimize the stress of an already overwhelming time in your life. Our legal team is ready to put our experience to work to settle your loved one’s estate and collect the assets you may be entitled to. To get started, call (704) 482-1112 for a free consultation.