Estate planning is designed to provide security to your loved ones and ensure a smooth transfer of property to them after you pass on. Unfortunately, just because you have an estate plan in place does not mean things will go smoothly. A Kings Mountain probate lawyer can guide you through every step of the probate process to help settle your loved one’s estate with ease.
A Kings Mountain Probate Attorney Will Help You Fulfill Your Duties
Securing a probate lawyer in the King Mountain area can mean the difference between moving through estate administration smoothly and struggling with filing deadlines. Because a large portion of the probate process involves paperwork, having dedicated legal assistance can save you both time and money.
There are many duties attached to the responsibility of settling a loved one’s estate. Fortunately, an experienced probate attorney from our firm can take on the brunt of those duties for you.
We Have the Resources to Locate Assets and People
One of the many jobs that a personal representative must perform is locating assets, debts, and heirs. As an executor, you are tasked with finding and valuing the decedent’s entire estate, including bank accounts, cash, jewelry, furniture, vehicles, businesses, and real estate. Furthermore, you must determine who they owe debts to and how much those debts are.
The executor also needs to locate and notify any beneficiaries of the will. It becomes even more complicated to locate anyone who would have an interest in the estate if there is no will to direct you. Probate lawyers have the resources and knowledge to help you pin down assets, debts, and people.
We Handle Probate Disputes
Though rare, probate disputes do arise. A probate litigator can represent you and the estate in court, building a strong case designed to protect your rights. Beneficiaries may also need a legal advocate in probate proceedings. A probate lawyer can build a compelling case to help you win the portion of the estate that you are entitled to.
For a legal consultation with a probate lawyer serving Kings Mountain, call 828.286.3866
The Basics of Probate Law in North Carolina
There is a lot of confusion and anxiety about probate court. It can be very helpful to have the process demystified with legal insight.
Probate is defined as the process of settling someone’s estate after they pass away. All the money, property, and accounts they owned in life must be legally transferred to someone else. Ideally, the owner specifies how this should be done in their will – however, this is not always the case. When this process takes place through the court system, it is known as probate or estate administration.
Someone Must Handle the Estate
If a person dies with a will, they are said to have died “testate.” If they die without a will in place, they are known as “intestate.” The person handling the estate during this time is called a personal representative. They are either named in the will as the “executor” or selected by the probate judge as the “estate administrator.”
During probate, the executor is in charge of filing the will with the court (if there is one) within two years of the person’s death. The executor or administrator isre also in charge of locating and valuing the decedent’s assets, paying their debts, and disbursing the assets to the chosen heirs.
Probate in Kings Mountain Takes Place in Superior Court
In North Carolina, the estate is administered in the county where the owner lived. If they did not reside in North Carolina, their property can be administered in the county where it was left.
The Superior Court of the county in question presides over probate cases. Specifically, the elected Clerk of Superior Court handles most probate matters and will hold the majority of proceedings. However, if the validity of a will is challenged, a Superior Court judge will hear the matter.
Kings Mountain Probate Lawyer Near Me 828.286.3866
Who Inherits the Estate If There Is No Valid Will?
If there is no valid will, the estate in Cleveland or Gaston County (or elsewhere in North Carolina) is subject to intestacy laws. This can increase the time it takes for probate to conclude as the court has to sort out who is entitled to the decedent’s property.
In most cases, people leave their estate to their spouse, children, or parents, so intestacy statutes of North Carolina distribute assets the same way. Heirs to an estate are typically:
- Spouse (if no children)
- Spouse and children
- Children and descendants of deceased children (if no spouse)
- Parents (if no spouse and/or children)
If there is no spouse or children, the assets will transfer in the following order of priority:
- Siblings and descendants of deceased siblings
- Aunts and uncles (and if deceased, their children)
What If the Will Is Contested?
There are numerous relatives who could be named in a will, and any one of them could contest it. While these cases are rare, they do occur. A dispute over the will leads to probate litigation – and when this occurs, a probate attorney can help protect your interests in court.
Common reasons for probate disputes include:
- Suspicions of fraud
- Objection to appointed executor
- Dispute over the share of the estate
- Undue influence over the will
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You Can Avoid Probate in Certain Cases
Probate is necessary for cases when there is a will, no alternative estate plan (such as a trust), or no will in place. However, some assets do not need to go through probate.
Assets With a Designated Beneficiary
Assets that have a named beneficiary, such as insurance policies or retirement accounts, do not go through probate.
Property Owned with a Right of Survivorship
Assets that are jointly owned and have a “right of survivorship” do not go through probate. Sole ownership simply transfers to the living owner after one dies. Joint bank accounts, real estate, and cars can be jointly owned with the right of survivorship.
Payable-on-Death or Transfer-on-Death Accounts
Accounts which are payable-on-death (POD), such as a savings account or a certificate of deposit, have no need for probate. Instead, the money is cashed out and paid to the beneficiary upon death of the owner. Similarly, transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts like brokerage accounts avoid probate because the account is transferred to a designated owner. At that point, the new owner manages the account in the same fashion as the decedent.
Any real estate owned by the decedent in North Carolina automatically goes to the devisees in a will or the legal heirs if there is no will and is not subject to probate. In certain circumstances, the personal representative may sell the real estate to cover debts if other assets are not sufficient. However, they must receive permission from the court to do so, or the will must state that the property can be sold to cover debts.
Shortening the Probate Process
There is a summary administration procedure that the surviving spouse of a dependent can use if they are the sole heir of the estate. There is also a small estate procedure that allows beneficiaries of estates worth $20,000 or less to claim their assets by filing an affidavit with the court.
Call for Compassionate Legal Guidance from Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC
If you are tasked with settling the estate of a loved one and need guidance on where to start, call Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today at (828) 286-3866. One of our Kings Mountain probate lawyers can provide you with expert legal guidance to ensure that you meet all legal requirements and receive the assets you are entitled to.