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Losing someone close is painful enough. The last thing you need is to feel lost in probate court. All the legal terms and paperwork can make the probate process feel like a maze.
Where do you even start? How does the probate process work? What’s expected of you as an executor?
At Cary Estate Planning, our goal is to empower you with an understanding of what probate involves so you know what to anticipate.
To simplify things, we’ll break down the key phases of the probate process and prepare you for what’s ahead so that you can move forward with confidence and clarity.
When someone passes away, leaving property that needs to be transferred, the probate court oversees settling their estate.
The court validates the deceased person’s will, authorizes an executor, notifies beneficiaries, and supervises the distribution of assets. This ensures the wishes stated in the will are properly carried out.
The probate process begins when the deceased person’s will is filed with the probate court in the county where they lived. The executor named in the will petitions the court to admit the will to probate, which officially starts the legal process.
The court then holds a hearing to validate the will, appoint the executor, and issue them legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
To get the ball rolling, the executor named in the will files an application for probate and letters. This petition formally initiates the legal process. If there is no will, the person seeking to administer the estate must file an application to be appointed as personal representative of the estate.
There are a few key requirements for properly initiating the probate process:
Our experienced probate attorneys can handle these filings to ensure everything is done correctly right from the start.
In the initial probate hearing, the judge validates the will, appoints an executor, and issues legal authority to distribute the estate assets. This important court appearance usually lasts less than an hour but involves some key events:
Our estate planning attorneys are well-versed in probate law and can provide invaluable representation during the hearing.
After the initial hearing, the real work begins for the executor. Their key responsibilities include:
For most estates, the entire probate process must be completed within 9-12 months. But for large or contentious estates, it can take over 2 years to fully close out probate. Having our experienced estate planning attorneys to rely on for guidance can make the executor’s job much smoother.
The final step in probate is distributing the remaining assets to heirs after paying debts and taxes. The executor will petition the court for approval of a distribution plan. All beneficiaries will be notified of the final hearing, where the judge will authorize and approve asset distributions.
If the deceased left a will, assets are distributed according to the instructions in the will. If there is no will, assets are distributed according to state law under the rules of intestacy. The executor has a fiduciary duty to ensure all beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to under the will or state statute.
Finally, once all assets are distributed, and the court approves a final accounting, the estate can be closed, and probate ends. The executor is discharged from their duties once the judge issues a formal closure order.
Navigating the probate process on your own can be overwhelming. An experienced North Carolina probate lawyer can provide invaluable legal guidance.
Here are some of the key ways having a lawyer assist you through probate can make a significant difference:
Having an experienced probate attorney in your corner provides the legal knowledge and diligence needed to empower you to fulfill your duties as executor from start to finish.
Losing someone you love is hard enough without having to manage probate alone. The probate system has many complex filings, court procedures, and deadlines to navigate. Without an experienced law firm on your side, delays, disputes, and mistakes can derail the process and add even more stress and frustration.
At Cary Estate Planning, our probate attorneys have helped countless North Carolina families handle probate smoothly and efficiently. From filings and court hearings to appraisals, taxes, and final distributions, we know exactly how to see an estate through probate from start to finish.
Most importantly, we’ll be there for you each step of the way with compassionate, personalized legal guidance during this difficult time. Don’t go through probate alone. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.