Probate: Estate Administration

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s property and debts are distributed following death.  It is a formal process which is overseen by the Clerk of Superior Court to administer the decedent’s (the person who died) estate.  In the event that a will exists, the court will verify it and distribute the assets according to the terms of the will.  If there is not a will, the estate will be distributed pursuant to intestacy, which refers to the laws that control if someone dies without a will.

Who is in charge of Probate?

The person who is tasked with overseeing the probate process and ensuring that everything is in compliance is referred to as an executor if there is a will, and if there is no will, they are referred to as an administrator.  An executor or an administrator has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the estate beneficiaries' best interest.  The personal representative is tasked with filing reports and other documents with the office of the Clerk of Superior Court.  When you are drafting your will, you have the option of naming your executor, as well as a possible alternate, so you will need to choose someone that you trust to manage this process.

Is Probate Necessary?

Probate is not necessary if the estate is very small, if the estate is only distributed to a surviving spouse, or if certain steps are made in the estate planning process.  Our team of estate attorneys can help you determine if probate is necessary, and if so, guide you through the probate process.

What is the Probate Process?

The executor or administrator bears the majority of the responsibility for the administration of the estate. The process can be daunting and stressful with numerous deadlines, and our attorneys can assist you throughout the probate process to ensure all documents are filed within the designated deadlines. The general process for probate is:

  • If there is a will, the executor files paperwork in the county of the decedent to begin the process, and the court will validate the will.
  • If there is not a will an heir contacts the county clerk to be appointed as administrator. There will be a preliminary inventory of the estate provided.
  • The court appoints a personal representative by either “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration”.
  • Estate value is calculated for tax purposes.
  • Creditors are put on notice by publication.
  • A period is allowed for anyone to contest the will.
  • Executor gathers all assets.
  • Determine if widow’s allowance is necessary for a surviving spouse.
  • File 90 day inventory.
  • Pay debts of the decedent.
  • Distribute remainder of assets to heirs.
  • Prepare and file taxes for both the estate and the decedent.
  • Final accounting to close the probate estate.

If you are an executor or an administrator, our attorneys can help you administer the estate of your loved one.  If you have any questions or concerns about probate administration, contact our office for a consultation, and we can guide you through the process to ensure that the estate is properly administered. Our team of estate attorneys are experienced in the areas of estate planning and can assist you in understanding the long-term impact your decisions may have. Call us at 336-379-1390 to schedule your consultation today.

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Albert L. Saslow

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(336) 379-1390

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