Most testators designate an executor in their wills in order to ensure that the probate process runs smoothly. When you take office as the executor of an estate in North Carolina, the court gives you letters authorizing you to act on the estate’s behalf. Unless the deceased specifically stated in his will that you need to post bond or an insurance policy against any wrongdoing, North Carolina does not require you to do this. Once you have your letters, you can begin administering probate.
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Inventory all the deceased's assets. Make a list of everything she owned and its value on the date of her death. You have three months after taking office to file this inventory with the probate court.
Alert all the deceased’s creditors that he has died and that his estate is in probate. Some creditors will be obvious, such as mortgage companies and auto lenders. Send notice to them via registered or certified mail. The deceased may have owed people you don’t know about, so publish notice in a newspaper in the county where the will is being probated.
Secure a year’s living allowance for the deceased’s spouse and minor children, if he left any. To do this, file a request with the probate court clerk, and when it is approved, you can make this payment before you pay any other costs of the estate or creditors. However, you can only do it from cash available to the estate or personal property -- you cannot liquidate or award real estate to the family.
Pay the deceased’s creditors. If real estate was bequeathed and there is a lien or mortgage against it, the beneficiary should assume the loan. Otherwise, all secured loans must be paid through the estate, as well as any unsecured lenders who made claims after you put notice to them in the newspaper. If you doubt the validity of any of those claims, you can reject rather than pay them, but the lender has the right to file a lawsuit with the court to try to override your decision.
Prepare and file tax returns. Submit an individual return for any income the deceased earned in the last year of her life, as well as a return for the estate if it earned any income during probate. Also file an inheritance tax return with the State of North Carolina and a federal death tax return within nine months of the date of death if the estate is large enough to warrant it. Pay any resulting taxes that are due.
Distribute the remaining assets of the estate to the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s will after you have paid all taxes and other debts and expenses. If there are not enough assets remaining to pay everyone, you may have to prorate the remainder among the beneficiaries.
Prepare a final accounting and submit it to the court. Include receipts for everything you had to spend while probating the estate, as well as a detailed listing of all money the estate took in, all taxes and debts paid, and all property distributed to beneficiaries.
References & Resources
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