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Imagine your boss has told you that you’re going on a surprise work trip but won’t reveal where you’re going, when you’re going, why you’re going, or how you’re getting there. How do you think you’d feel? Pretty anxious, right? It’s only natural — when we know something is coming we want to plan for it, but without any knowledge there can’t be any plans. Uncertainty leads to stress.

Similar to our mystery trip, we know that we need estate planning to secure the futures of ourselves and our loved ones, but many of us have no idea how to prepare for that time, so we do nothing and live with the dread.

The good news is there’s a better way. An estate planning attorney can lead you through every step of the process, giving you the guidance you need to secure your plans and end the stress. On a much smaller scale, that’s what we do with our blog. We provide information about the various aspects of estate planning so you can become familiar with the terms and concepts. We want to demystify the process.

This time, we’re going to take a look at probate, the legal process that allows an executor to settle the estate of one who has died with or without a will. The following post provides an overview of probate in North Carolina:

Probate

The estate is the total amount of property that is owned by the decedent at his or her death (excluding real property unless it is necessary to pay creditors) and that has not already been set up to transfer automatically (such as transfer by joint tenancy or payment to a named beneficiary of an insurance policy). If there is a will, the clerk of court will determine if the will is valid and then oversee the administration of the estate by the executor (the person appointed in the will by the decedent to oversee the estate). If there is no will or the will is determined to be invalid, the clerk of court will appoint an administrator and the decedent’s property will be distributed according to North Carolina’s intestacy statute. Read more at North Carolina Trusts and Estates Law…

When taken together, these steps comprise the often complex probate process.

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Good estate planning goes a long way toward securing the future for your heirs, and it may also spare them the time and expense of a lengthy court process.

Now that we’ve talked about what probate is, let’s look at another important matter:

What Assets Go Through Probate?

Assets that go through probate include any asset that is individually owned by the deceased and not subject to a contract or a statute (law) governing the transfer of ownership.

For example, let’s compare two types of bank accounts — a single name account vs. a joint account. With a single name bank account, there is no doubt that the only owner is the deceased. Once the owner passes away, the bank will not accept any inquiries or instructions unless a court-appointed executor/administrator exists. The only way to change ownership of the single name account is through the court, so any assets in the bank account must go through probate. Read more at EZ-Probate…

As you can see, whether your assets are singly or jointly owned is a critical distinction for the law. This is something your estate planning attorney will discuss with you to determine the best handling of your assets in either case.

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The following post provides more detailed information about navigating the probate process in North Carolina:

How Does Probate Work in N.C.?

The first step to preparing for the probate process is understanding exactly how probate works and whether probate is required for your situation. Whether you apply for probate with no will or with a will also determines a great deal of your probate process in North Carolina.

The probate process begins at the Clerk of Superior Court in the deceased’s county of residence. An application is submitted to the clerk by either the executor/executrix named in a will or, if there is no will or the person named in the will is not able or willing to serve, a person qualified to be an administrator. The application must be submitted along with the will (if there is one), a preliminary inventory of the estate and a certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate. Read more at The Inspiring Investment…

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If you live in Charlotte, NC, or the surrounding metro region of North Carolina or South Carolina, and need expert help for your estate planning, contact attorney Jonathan Meek at Meek Law Firm. You can reach him by calling (704) 848-6335, or via the contact form on the website. We can look forward to hearing from you.