How to Contest the Handling of an Estate in North Carolina

By Beverly Bird

Probate is often a difficult and contentious process. Emotions can run high, with grief at the forefront. Under the circumstances, it can be easy enough to come to the conclusion that the executor of your loved one’s estate is mishandling it. You have recourse if you’re correct: North Carolina law allows you to ask that the executor of the estate be removed from office.

Step 1

Gather hard proof of what you think the executor has done wrong. You’ll need legally acceptable grounds for your request; you can’t just complain that the executor is taking too much time or not keeping you informed. She must have mismanaged estate funds, stolen from the estate, or handled the deceased’s assets in such a way that it resulted in personal gain. Having a private financial interest in the estate can disqualify her. For example, she might be removed if she co-owned property with the deceased and is resisting its sale because she doesn’t want to lose money in the current economy. The court won’t take your word that she’s done something wrong; you’ll need to establish that your grounds occurred and prove it with documented evidence.

Step 2

File a verified petition for the executor’s removal with the clerk of the Superior Court. This step might be a bit of a challenge because forms for such documents are not readily available on the Internet, but you can stop by the courthouse and ask the staff for guidance – just don’t be surprised if you’re referred to an attorney. The process of presenting your complaint in the proper written form and meeting your burden of proof can be difficult. You must have standing to file the petition, meaning that you must be a beneficiary or be personally affected in some way by the mishandling of the estate.

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Step 3

Attend a hearing before the clerk of the court. The clerk will schedule the date and time after you file the petition and will alert other interested parties that there will be a hearing to investigate your allegations. If your proof is sufficient, the clerk can revoke the executor’s authority to act on behalf of the estate – it’s not necessary to involve a judge in North Carolina, and a full-blown trial isn’t required.

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What Can Be Done to Force an Executor to Finalize an Estate?


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