Probate Lawyers Assisting Clients in Asheville and Surrounding Areas
When you hear the term “probate” it is usually spoken of as something to be avoided. While there are sometimes ways to avoid the probate process in administering the estate of someone who has passed away, it is important to understand the process, its goals, and the ways you can best navigate it in North Carolina. Not everyone can avoid probate. Our skilled estate planning attorneys can answer all of your questions and help you determine what the best path is for you in planning your estate and planning for the probate process. We can also help executors who are currently going through the probate process to understand both the process and their role in it. Contact Craig Associates, PC at 828-258-2888to find answers to your questions about probate.
What is Probate, Exactly?
Probate is a process supervised by the courts that allows a deceased person’s legal representative to gather their assets, pay any debts or taxes due, and distribute the remainder of the estate. Probate will be required when there is a will or if the deceased died without a will owning certain kinds of assets or property of a certain value. Probate will always happen if someone dies without a will in North Carolina. Probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process, and the skilled estate planning attorneys at Craig Associates can help you craft an estate plan to minimize the need for probate.
Do All Estates Need to Go Through Probate in North Carolina?
Not all estates will go through probate in North Carolina, and not all parts of an estate will go through probate. Probate is necessary only for assets that the deceased owned in his or her personal name. Assets that were owned jointly with another person payable on death or by rights of survivorship may pass to that person without going through probate. Also exempt from probate are most assets with a named beneficiary, like retirement accounts or life insurance policies, and any assets held in a revocable living trust.
North Carolina has an unusual provision for those with small estates to help streamline the probate process. If the deceased person’s assets, excluding real estate, add up to less than $20,000 (or $30,000 if a surviving spouse will inherit everything), North Carolina will allow you to file an “Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property of Decedent” to speed up the process.
Why Would I Want to Avoid Probate, And What Should I Do if I Can’t?
As you know, any legal process involving the courts is likely to go more slowly than we would like it to. Probate is no exception. When an estate goes through probate, what remains after debts are paid may not be distributed to the inheritors for months or even years. There are costs involved, as well, some of which the court will take directly from the estate to cover probate fees. You may also want to avoid probate if you want your financial details kept private or if you have heirs that are likely to object to your desires. Probate is a public process with public records that can be accessed by anyone.
If you cannot avoid probate due to the specifics of the estate in question, your best bet is to hire a skilled probate lawyer to help you through the process. This attorney can help to gather the needed records, obtain appraisals, validate any last will, and help the executor with all of the complex duties of administering an estate. Most executors are not legal professionals and can find the probate process daunting. Professional legal counsel can help you to ensure that all aspects of estate administration are handled fairly, legally, and ethically.
What if There Was No Will?
In almost all cases, if a person dies without a will, their estate must go through probate. Because the deceased did not make their wishes known for the distribution of assets or appoint an executor, the court will both appoint someone to administer the estate and determine who, according to state law, will inherit anything that is left after debts are paid.
You want to save your loved ones the headache and heartache of going through probate when you pass away. See one of Craig Associates’ experienced and knowledgeable probate attorneys whether you are ready to create a solid estate plan, or you need help going through the probate process for a deceased loved one’s estate. Contact us at 828-258-2888 to get the sound legal advice you need.