Probate and estate administration proceedings can be lengthy and uncertain. The process can create an opportunity for beneficiaries to challenge the validity of the deceased person’s will. For this reason, most people prefer finding ways to protect their loved ones from going through the costly probate process. Although avoiding probate and estate administration can be difficult, there are a few steps to reduce the chances of going through the process.
What is Probate and Estate Administration?
Probate is the process where the personal representative (also known as executor or administrator) proves the validity of the will by submitting the will to the Clerk of Court’s office. Once the will has been probated and proved to be the last will and testament of the deceased, then the personal representative is tasked with the distribution of the deceased person’s estate, pursuant to the terms of the Will. If you die without a will, then the personal representative will distribute your assets pursuant to your state’s intestacy statute.
The testator, or the person who creates a will, should have appointed someone to manage the estate distribution. This person is known as either the personal representative or executor. If not, the Clerk of Court will appoint someone to be the personal representative of the estate and administer the estate of the deceased. The personal representative should assemble the deceased’s assets and pay any outstanding bills (including debts and taxes). Once all debts and claims have been paid, it is the duty of the personal representative to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries pursuant to the will, or by statute if there is no will.
If you are unsure whether you need probate in North Carolina, a Wilmington estate planning attorney can assist you.
Summary Administration is Maybe What You Need
The goal of probate and estate administration is to ensure the wishes of the deceased are followed through pursuant to the terms of deceased will and to distribute assets of the deceased pursuant to state law. However, this process may not be necessary for individuals who own few assets or have beneficiaries designated on their financial accounts. North Carolina creates room for a more straightforward process known as summary administration under certain circumstances.
The summary administration process is ideal if the decedent dies with little to no assets. To apply for summary administration, you must provide the following information:
- An original will (if one is available);
- Names of all potential beneficiaries;
- Inventory and accounting of all personal property owned by deceased
It is good to note that summary administration can only be filed if the value of the decedent’s personal property is equal to either $20,000 (if someone other than the spouse of the decedent is filing for summary administration) or $30,000 (if the spouse of the decedent is filing for summary administration).
If the summary administration is approved, the asset distribution can occur without undergoing the typical probate process. However, it is still expected that any bills or claims of the deceased are paid and it may fall on the beneficiaries to pay any outstanding creditors or claims if summary administration is approved.
We recommend consulting with a Wilmington Estate Planning Attorney prior to filing for summary administration.
Schedule a Consultation with a Wilmington Estate Planning Attorney
The decision to go probate and administer an estate depends on the value of the estate and the identity of the heirs. An estate planning attorney for Rountree Losee can offer the help you need to shorten the probate process using summary administration. We understand administering an estate can be stressful and time consuming, contact us today to discuss how we can help you administer your loved one’s estate.