When loved ones pass away, the last thing any of us want to do is subject ourselves to lengthy court processes to settle the estate. That’s only an option, however, if the deceased took specific steps to ensure that his or her estate assets transferred ownership automatically. In most instances, that’s simply not the case. In fact, fewer than half of all adults in the United States ever take the time to craft a Last Will and Testament, and fewer still ever consider things like trusts or transfer-on-death designations. That leaves the vast majority of estates subject to probate. And since you’re likely to encounter the probate process at some point in your life, it is important to know which resources are available to help.
Why is Probate Necessary?
You may have heard that probate is something to be avoided at cost. That, of course, makes it sound as though probate is a bad thing. It is not. The probate process was designed to ensure that estate assets are properly distributed to heirs in a way that minimizes the potential for fraud, conflict, and lengthy delays. In every case in which probate-subject assets are involved, probate can provide an orderly and court-supervised way for heirs to receive their inheritance.
It should also be noted that a Last Will and Testament won’t prevent probate. The need for this process is determined not by whether there is a will, but by the ownership of the assets involved. Probate deals with assets that don’t have other means for distribution. Take a bank account with your name on it, for example. That account would need to be probated to ensure that it went to the right heir. On the other hand, that same bank account could avoid probate if you include a transfer-on-death provision in the account designations. That acts in much the same way that a life insurance policy works, and provides automatic transfer of ownership when you die.
Why Would You Come into Contact with Probate Court?
There are a number of ways in which you might come into contact with the probate court and process. You could be named as the executor for a loved one’s will, and thus have to deal with the court as you fulfill the obligations of that role. You might also find that you are listed as an heir. You may even have grounds to challenge a will, and find yourself in contact with probate court as you go through that contestation process. In any of those instances, you should consider the benefits available from contacting an experienced North Carolina probate attorney. That attorney can provide you with the counsel and guidance you need to navigate through the probate process. In addition, the resources below can provide a firmer understanding about this important process.
Essential Information about North Carolina Probate
Because probate is such a complex process, it is always best to consult authoritative sources and experts with any questions you might have. The North Carolina Court System can provide you with access to the rules and procedures for administering estates here. The State Bar Association also provides important information about asset protection, wills, and trusts.
North Carolina Probate Laws
In North Carolina, the administration of decedents’ estates is covered in Chapter 28A of the state’s General Statutes. This section of the state’s legal code can provide the specific statutory language that forms the foundation for all of the various procedures and rules that you’ll be dealing with during your interaction with the probate court.
North Carolina Estate Tax Concerns
North Carolina repealed its estate tax provisions and now imposes no inheritance or estate tax. The end of the state’s estate tax tentatively began with 2005 changes to the federal estate tax provisions and were completed with the 2013 repeal of the state’s own tax provisions. For more information, you can contact the Department of Revenue at (877) 252-3052.
State-by-State Estate Tax Differences
Since decedents sometimes live and own property in multiple states, you may find that you need to know specific facts about other state laws too. Different states have different estate tax provisions after all. Everplans has a helpful reference list of the different U.S. states and their different estate tax laws on their website.
North Carolina Probate Court Resources
North Carolina probate is handled at the Superior Court level across the state. The North Carolina Superior Court system is divided into 50 districts, as well as eight divisions. Through its clerk of court, Superior Court has been provided with exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving probate and estate administration. You can locate the appropriate Superior Court for your area on the court’s website here. You can also download the forms you need from the court’s website.
Estate Planning in North Carolina
Questions about the probate process often lead directly to questions about our own estate planning efforts. And since it is never too early to begin to plan for your future asset protection and legacy planning needs, it is important to identify vital resources that can provide more information about those critical topics. The following resources can help you to gain new insight into the legal structure in place for North Carolina estate planning concerns:
- North Carolina Probate Laws
- North Carolina Durable Power of Attorney Laws
- North Carolina Will Laws
- North Carolina Living Will Laws
The good news is that there are plenty of resources available to help you with any questions you might have about the North Carolina probate process – including experienced estate planning attorneys with specific expertise in all matters related to probate. And while online resources can provide a good place to start your probate education, they are no substitute for the expert advice and guidance you can receive from an estate planning firm like The Potter Law Firm. Our legal team can help you to avoid the stress and anxiety that many people experience during probate, and provide vital assistance with your own estate planning needs. To find out more, contact us online or call today at (704) 944-3245.