When a person dies, their estate goes through a process called probate in which their assets and properties are distributed to their beneficiaries or next of kin. This process usually follows instructions set out in a deceased person’s will regarding who should get what property of theirs, but various circumstances can complicate or prolong these procedures and lead to an unfavorable outcome.
When it comes to the probate process, not only is a person dealing with the death of their loved one, but they also have to make sure all of the deceased’s affairs are in order. This can be a substantial undertaking. There are a lot of rules that must be followed to settle an estate and you could use someone to help you through the process and take that burden off your hands.
You need a Cary probate lawyer experienced in the complex legal challenges that come with handling the affairs of a departed loved one. If you need help preparing for your own estate’s probate or managing the probate process for a loved one’s property, consider speaking with a dedicated trusts and estates attorney. We could help you prepare for any obstacles or disputes that may arise.
The most important party involved in probate, aside from the court overseeing the entire process, is the personal representative for property being distributed. This person is responsible for representing the decedent’s estate during the probate process, meaning they must gather all of the assets, pay off any outstanding debts, and ensure the decedent’s last wishes are carried out regarding division of their assets and property.
Typically, a person will be named an estate representative from a will. If no representative is named prior to a person’s death, the court will assign this role in the following priority order, as per North Carolina General Statutes §28A-4-1:
Regardless of who the acting representative is, this duty comes with complex legal responsibilities. It is almost always a good idea for you to seek guidance and support from a Cary probate attorney before probate begins.
Probate is used to address any property held in the deceased’s name upon their death, including solely owned bank accounts, real estate, stock holdings, and personal items such as furniture and jewelry. Property put in revocable trusts, jointly owned real estate, retirement accounts with a named beneficiary, and certain other financial instruments are not eligible for distribution through probate.
Probate-eligible property is either distributed in accordance with the decedent’s will. If no will exists, however, property is distributed among the decedent’s surviving spouse and next of kin. However, if a decedent’s only surviving beneficiary or heir is their spouse, N.C.G.S. §28-28-1 allows for a simplified probate process that could proceeds much faster than normal.
Similar laws allow for simplified probate if an estate’s total value does not exceed $20,000, or $60,000 if the decedent’s spouse is their sole beneficiary. A local probate legal professional could discuss with an individual estate representative or beneficiary what may be possible under particular circumstances.
Probate can be a complex and controversial process, even if a decedent leaves a will specifying their exact wishes. It is best to let someone versed in the rules of probate handle your loved one’s affairs to avoid any delays in distributing their assets. A qualified Cary probate lawyer could offer advice and expertise to anyone dealing with this process at any stage.
Whether you are representing someone’s estate or seeking assets or property as a beneficiary, guidance from seasoned legal counsel could be crucial to achieving your desired outcome. Call today to schedule an initial strategy meeting and learn more about the assistance a legal professional could provide.