Wills & Probate in North Carolina

by Beverly Bird
    North Carolina offers simplified probate procedures for small estates.

    North Carolina offers simplified probate procedures for small estates.

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    If a will is valid and there are no objections to it, and if the estate owes no taxes to either North Carolina or the IRS, probate in the state can take as little as three months. North Carolina offers abbreviated probate processes for estates where the entire value of assets is no more than $10,000 or when a surviving spouse inherits the deceased’s entire estate.

    Will Requirements

    Wills may be printed, handwritten or oral in North Carolina. Printed and oral wills require two witnesses but handwritten, or holographic, wills require none. A witness may be a beneficiary in the will provided that there is one more witness in addition to that person. Otherwise, the deceased’s bequest to the witness becomes null and void. Self-proved wills, accompanied by a notarized statement by the testator and her witnesses that the will is authentic, are accepted. You can disinherit a child in North Carolina, but not a spouse.

    Appointment of Executor

    Probate opens when the the court approves the will’s choice of an executor to oversee the distribution of the deceased’s estate. The executor must be at least 18 years of age, literate and clear of any felony convictions. If the named executor doesn’t live in North Carolina, then the court appoints an additional agent within the state to act as a liaison between the court and the executor.

    Payment of Estate Debts

    One of the first duties of the executor is publication of a notice to creditors in a newspaper in the county where the estate is being probated. She must also send direct notice to all creditors she knows about. If the estate doesn’t have enough money to to pay all creditors who make a claim after receiving notice, debts secured by collateral are paid first, followed by funeral expenses of the deceased and taxes. Unsecured claims are either not paid or the remaining funds are apportioned equally between them. The deceased’s immediate family is also permitted a year’s allowance to live on. This money can come from the estate’s cash or the liquidation of personal property, but not from real estate.

    Organization and Distribution of Assets

    Within three months of taking office, the executor must file an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court, listing each item and its approximate value. After payment of the deceased’s debts, estate taxes and the allotment of any family allowance, the executor may disburse the remaining money and property in the estate to the beneficiaries named in the will. If any real estate has a mortgage against it, the mortgage transfers to and becomes the responsibility of the beneficiary getting the property.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

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