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How does probate work in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2021 | Estate Planning |

North Carolina residents often have questions about probate during the estate planning process. Understanding how probate works in the state can help inform your decisions.

Review these aspects of North Carolina probate when planning your estate.

Defining probate

Probate occurs when your executor submits your will to the court. The court ensures its validity and issues a legal document called letters testamentary. This gives your executor permission to pay estate debts, settle taxes and distribute your property to your beneficiaries. You may also hear probate called “estate administration.”

Understanding North Carolina probate requirements

Some assets do not require probate. You can establish beneficiaries for many assets before you die so property bypasses directly to your designated heir. Examples of probate-exempt assets in North Carolina include assets you transfer to the ownership of a living trust, pension and life insurance accounts with a beneficiary, retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary, and real estate you own together with a spouse.

Your executor or immediate survivor can apply to avoid probate in North Carolina when probate assets do not exceed $20,000. The minimum is $30,000 if your will leaves everything to your surviving spouse. When you do not name an executor or personal representative in a valid will, the court will allow your next of kin to start the probate process.

Whether or not you expect your assets to require probate, estate planning can help ensure the fulfillment of your wishes in caring for your beneficiaries. Even if you already have a will, reviewing your estate documents every few years will facilitate updates as needed.