It can be hard to know where to start when tasked with settling a loved one’s estate. Grieving your loved one is difficult enough without having to sort through an extensive court system like probate. Keeping up with all the legal requirements and deadlines can be stressful and time-consuming, as you try to locate assets and relatives to honor your loved one’s wishes.
Thankfully, you do not have to do it all by yourself. A Rutherford County probate lawyer can help you through the estate administration process in North Carolina.
How Long Does Probate Last?
In simple terms, the probate process is the legal transferring of the assets of a deceased person to others. However, it can be a lengthy court process, taking anywhere from a couple of months to several years. How long the probate process will take in North Carolina ultimately depends on the estate and the parties involved.
Aside from having a living trust where assets are stored, which bypasses probate altogether, there are two ways to potentially quicken the probate process.
Summary Administration of Probate Proceedings
A simplified procedure is available to the decedent’s spouse in the event that the spouse is the only person to inherit the estate. The spouse can petition the court for the property, following certain parameters to ensure that strict requirements are followed in their filing. This summary administration also confers any remaining debt of the deceased upon the spouse.
Small Estate – Collector by Affidavit
Another way to shorten the probate process is doing a small estate, or becoming the collector of the estate by affidavit. The affidavit is a short document, signed under oath and filed with the court, declaring that a certain person(s) is entitled to a particular asset(s). Per N.C. Gen. Stat § 28A-25-1.1, this process is only available if the assets in question total less than $20,000 (or $30,000 for the surviving spouse).
Steps in the North Carolina Probate Process
Executors – personal representatives chosen by the estate owner to handle their assets after death – and beneficiaries can both benefit from obtaining legal counsel in Rutherford County, North Carolina. The probate process, also known as estate administration, involves multiple steps and deadlines. An experienced probate attorney can save you time and effort in navigating through probate while you focus on grieving and healing your family.
To begin probate proceedings, the executor of the estate must:
- Locate and file the will
- File a petition with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the deceased person lived to begin estate administration
- File an application to be officially appointed as executor (if you were named in the will as such)
- File a copy of the death certificate
- File an inventory form of the decedent’s assets to the best of your knowledge
- Notify anyone named in the will or anyone who may have an interest in inheriting the estate
- Notify creditors of the death and their time window to claim any money they are owed
- Provide proof to validate the will
- Locate and protect any assets
- Appraise the assets
- Sell any property to cover debts
- File tax returns, pay taxes, and settle any other outstanding debts from the estate
- Distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries
Rutherford County Probate Attorneys Can Save You Time
Based on the many steps listed above, it is easy to see how this process can become time-consuming. A probate lawyer at our firm can not only walk you through each step but assist you in completing them. Our team will put years of knowledge and experience with probate and inheritance laws to work for you.
To facilitate your case, we can:
- Identify and locate property under the estate
- Help secure an accurate appraisal of assets
- Locate beneficiaries and potential heirs
- Send proper notification to creditors following the specific laws of North Carolina probate
- Fill out and file any required paperwork and court documents to move the proceedings forward
- Communicate with institutions on behalf of the estate and the executor
- Obtain any necessary documentation
- Act as a go-between for the executor/administrator and beneficiaries
Our Legal Team Is Prepared to Represent You in Probate Litigation
A common fear among families and anyone who is faced with being the executor of an estate is that the estate owner’s death will cause or exacerbate rifts between parties – especially if there is a lot of money or property involved. Those who are named in the will (or, in some cases, left out) may contest the probate proceedings, leading to probate litigation.
When this occurs, the executor of the estate will be challenged with defending the will and hopefully settling any disputes among family members and other parties. Typically, probate litigation arises over a person’s concern that they are not receiving the inheritance they believe they are entitled to. However, arguments over a will can occur due to other reasons, such as:
Bad Blood Between Family Members and Other Parties
Tensions and emotions between relatives who do not get along tend to run even higher after a loved one passes. These conflicts may bubble to the surface, and probate dispute is sometimes seen as a way to settle the score.
Difficulty Working Together After Years of Damaged Relationships
Sometimes it is hard for siblings or close relatives to find a way to communicate and work together effectively after many years of strained relationships.
One of the beneficiaries may contest the will because they feel like another family member or party heavily influenced the decedent’s decision. They may believe that their portion was reduced or someone else’s portion was increased unfairly.
The will itself may be deemed by one of the parties to be fraudulent. Perhaps they have misgivings about how or when the will was signed. The will’s content may also be contrary to the testator’s previously stated wishes, known character and behavior, or prior drafts of the will.
Lack of Transparency
When the process of the will being drafted is shrouded in secrecy, family members and other parties may believe that they are not being treated truthfully or fairly, leading to mistrust of the document.
Probate disputes arise for many reasons, sometimes when it seems there should be no issues over the estate at all. Securing a probate lawyer at the outset of estate administration in Rutherford County can help curtail tension between relatives and protect you in court should any disputes arise. Both executors and beneficiaries can benefit from having probate litigators representing their interests in court to ensure their rights are protected.
Contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC for Help with Probate Proceedings
The probate process does not have to be stressful or time-consuming for you or your family. A Rutherford County probate lawyer at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can take the weight off your shoulders.
Call (828) 286-3866 today for a consultation. Our legal team will explain your rights and responsibilities during probate and help put you on track to administer the estate of your loved one successfully.