If you have additional questions, please call (704) 887-4944 or email us here.
Probate and Estate Administration
You’ve lost a loved one. Let us offer our condolences.
We recognize the days and weeks ahead will be difficult on many levels, not the least of which is preparing for North Carolina’s probate and estate administration procedure. Our experience suggests that the steps below apply in most circumstances and will help guide you through the next several weeks.
First, act immediately. You should waste little time making certain arrangements. For example, notify family and friends of the death. Call the funeral home and start to plan a service that honors the decedent. Arrange for the care of any dependent of the decedent, such as a minor child or an elderly spouse, as well as any pet. Secure the decedent’s residence and safeguard, but do not distribute, the decedent’s property for the time being. Write the obituary.
Second, get organized within two weeks. While communicating with the funeral director, request ten certified copies of the death certificate. Gather all paperwork and information relating to the decedent’s property and accounts such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. From this data, draft an estimated inventory of the decedent’s assets. Also, list all known liabilities. Locate the decedent’s original will and trust. Track all of your time and expenses for the actions you are taking.
Third, call an attorney within three weeks. Scheduling a consultation with a trusts and estates attorney is one of the most prudent actions you can take in this situation. There are numerous rules and deadlines that must be observed in probate and estate administration. A wrong or delayed decision can be a costly mistake. After the consultation, you will be more familiar with the process and better able to assess if hiring an attorney for ongoing advice is appropriate.
Finally, don’t forget to grieve. Reflect on the loss of your loved one and what it means to you. Stay in close contact with your family and friends for support. Realize there’s no timeline for finding closure. Take things one day at a time.
For more information on North Carolina probate and estate administration and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact our office today at (704) 887-4944 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.
An executor is the person who is named in the will and appointed by the probate court to settle a decedent’s estate. Relatives, close friends, and trusted advisors are usually selected to serve as executor and perform a number of important duties. The list below is offered only as general guidance of some of the duties that an executor may perform when settling an estate in North Carolina.
- Locate the will
- Schedule a family conference
- Gather information about the decedent and his or her assets
- Consider hiring professional advisors to assist with settlement
- Probate the will and apply for Letters Testamentary with the Clerk of Court
- Prepare and publish the Notice to Creditors
- Obtain the estate’s tax identification number
- Open the estate’s bank account and keep detailed records of all account activity
- Locate, marshal, and secure estate assets
- File the Inventory with the Clerk of Court
- Identify all debts of the decedent and decide whether to pay or reject each claim
- Disburse funds to pay debts and administrative expenses
- File tax forms and pay taxes due
- File the estate’s annual account with the Clerk of Court
- Distribute assets to the estate’s beneficiaries and obtain receipts from beneficiaries
- File the estate’s final account with the Clerk of Court
Bear in mind that strict deadlines apply to the items above. Also, even a seemingly “simple” estate can take approximately one year to settle properly. For more information on serving as an executor in North Carolina and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact our office today at (704) 887-4944 or email@example.com to schedule a consultation.
Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning
An estate plan is crucial to protecting your children. Here are 3 reasons why.
- You can plan for your children’s short- and long-term guardianship. Imagine you and your spouse are involved in a serious car accident on the way home after a date night. You are both rushed to the hospital. Have you planned for where your children should go and who is going to watch them in the immediate aftermath of an accident? What if you and your spouse do not survive the accident? Have you selected the person you would prefer to raise your children? These are unpleasant thoughts, to be sure, but that’s no excuse for failing to make these critical decisions today.
- You can plan for medical emergencies while your children are under the supervision of a nanny or babysitter. Did you know that you can authorize the nanny or babysitter to make an emergency medical decision for your children in case you and your spouse are unavailable? Making this arrangement is wise, especially if you and your spouse work out of the home or travel frequently.
- You can plan for the management of your children’s property. Remember the serious car accident? Let’s say you and your spouse die as a result. Have you thought about what would happen to your property? How about life insurance proceeds? Bank account balances? Minor children cannot own property. So you and your spouse can either prepare now and express your specific desires as to what should happen to your property on behalf of your children, or you may leave the matter for a court to decide. It’s your call.
So, go ahead, buy the baby monitor and cabinet locks. But don’t overlook the estate plan. Too much is at stake.
If you’re like many people, you like to be organized and have control over most areas of your life but probably don’t like thinking about and planning for your own death. Talk about a paradox. One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Do I need a will?” My answer is almost always, “Yes.” Here are three reasons why having a will is important.
A will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children. If you pass away without a will, the court lacks your input in deciding who will raise your children. For a parent, this is no small oversight. By taking the time to execute a will and name a guardian, you ensure that the court will have your best recommendation in mind when selecting the person who will raise and care for your children. How’s that for some peace of mind?
A will enables you to distribute your estate according to your clear wishes. Many people I’ve spoken with say the reason they do not have a will is because they think they aren’t “rich enough” to need a will. Yet, the truth of the matter is everyone owns something. A will allows you to distribute whatever personal belongings and assets you do own, no matter how minimal, to the beneficiaries you designate. Otherwise, without a will, state law determines how the assets in your estate are distributed to your heirs.
A will lets you select an Executor to settle your affairs. The Executor is the person who will, among other duties, probate your will, open your estate, collect the estate assets, pay your debts, file any tax returns, and distribute the estate assets to your beneficiaries while observing strict deadlines. In short, the Executor represents your estate. In the absence of a will, state law designates who should represent your estate whether he or she is the same person you would have selected. However, a will puts the decision in your hands so you can appoint someone you trust to perform this important role.
Although death is something that none of us have control over, creating a will enables you to have a say in what will happen after you are gone. Also, know that a will is just part of the estate planning process. For more information on wills and estate planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact our office today at (704) 887-4944 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.
As my clients often hear me say, estate planning should be viewed as a process rather than a one-time event. Personal and financial circumstances change. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate your will, trust, health care power of attorney, and other estate plan documents periodically in light of all such changes and make revisions when appropriate. In other words, plan, review, and update.
While a comprehensive estate plan review every two or three years sounds sufficient, I recommend an annual review for greatest protection and peace of mind. A good time to kick the tires, so to speak, of your will and other estate plan documents is at the very beginning or very end of the year as you conduct other tax, insurance, or financial planning.
As a partial guide, the events listed below likely signal an estate plan update is in order.
- Marriage, divorce, or separation
- Birth or adoption
- Death, disability, or serious illness
- Retirement or unemployment
- Increase or decrease in asset values
- Acquisition of real estate in another state
- Change in business interests
- Move to another state
- Changes in state and federal laws
Resist taking a “set it and forget it” approach to estate planning. Review your estate plan annually and make revisions to accommodate changes in personal and financial circumstances. For more information on updating your will, trust, or other estate plan document and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact our office today at (704) 887-4944 or email@example.com to schedule a consultation.