Crafting a will is an important part of the estate planning process. However, to ensure that your family and heirs receive your property after you die, your will or other testamentary documents may need to go through the probate process to gain legal recognition. Importantly, the probate process is only necessary if a person died as the sole owner of assets. If assets have a co-owner, such as a decedent’s spouse, that property can transfer directly to their ownership.
The probate process serves two functions. The first is to legitimize and validate testamentary documents. The second is to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are achieved according to the terms of their will. Understanding the Raleigh probate process can help ensure that the proceedings go smoothly. If you are a testator or executor, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney for patient guidance throughout this legal process.
The first step in the probate process is to submit the will to the Raleigh court. This applies whenever a person passes away, even if they have an extremely simple will that transfers all property to a single beneficiary. When a decedent has only one named heir in the will, such as a surviving spouse, probate may take on a simplified form. In this scenario, the spouse will file a petition and the court can certify that no further probate is necessary to transfer the assets of the estate.
However, probate can also be extremely complex and time-consuming in certain cases. For example, if a will names multiple beneficiaries or makes provisions for the distribution of high-value assets, the court may need to appoint an executor to administer the estate. In these situations, it best to contact a nearby attorney with experience in navigating the probate process.
The personal representative of an estate is the person with authority to carry out the orders in the will. This person has a legal obligation to perform the duties outlined in the will and to follow the orders of the court.
The court authorizes a personal representative to perform this function with a letter testamentary. According to North Carolina General Statutes § 28A-4-1, a decedent’s will usually nominates this person. If the nominated representative declines the duty or is otherwise not qualified, the court can appoint an executor.
The executor will gather the decedent’s assets and debts. They will then take every necessary step to pay creditors and ensure that beneficiaries receive the assets that the will assigns to them. This process may involve creating an estate bank account, liquidating assets such as a home or business, and paying debts to creditors.
The exact terms of a will or testamentary document will determine what steps the executor must take. Once the executor believes that they have completed their duty under the law, they must make an account of their actions. The executor can then submit this along with evidence of payments and distributions to the court. The court will evaluate this evidence and declare the estate closed if everything appears to be in order, ending the probate process.
The probate process will vary depending on the case. However, the courts will generally follow a standard procedure, beginning with the submission of a decedent’s will. To successfully navigate these legal proceedings, it is recommended that you discuss the Raleigh probate process with a skilled attorney. Call our firm to speak with a dedicated member of our team today.