Five Tips to Help You Avoid Delays in the Probate Process in North Carolina
Probate can be confusing. In North Carolina, probate is the official legal process through which a trusted person—typically the executor of the will—is given the authority to inventory and gather a deceased’s person’s property, resolve outstanding debts and claims, and distribute the remaining assets to the appropriate heirs.
You may have heard some horror stories about estates getting bogged down in probate. While probate can be a frustrating, sometimes lengthy process, there are steps you can take to help prevent unnecessary delays. Here, our Charlotte probate attorney offers five tips to help you avoid delays in North Carolina’s probate process.Estate Administration in North Carolina: How to Avoid Probate Delays
- Initiate the Probate Process in a Timely Manner
One of the best tips to avoid probate delays is also one of the simplest: Initiate the probate process in a timely manner. A North Carolina probate court is not going to take care of this step for you and your family. Probate will only begin when someone initiates the process. Ideally, the deceased person will have a legally valid will in which they named a responsible executor. The executor should file an application for probate and letters with the proper North Carolina county court. If you have any specific questions about how to start probate, an experienced Charlotte, NC estate administration lawyer can help.
- Provide Proper Notice to Interested All Parties (Including the Creditors)
Are you the executor in charge of administering an estate? If so, it is essential that you understand your legal responsibilities. You have a duty to notify all interested parties that there has been a probate filing. To start, this means notifying all family members and loved one who were listed in the will or who may otherwise have a claim to the estate. In addition, North Carolina Statutes § 28A-14-1 requires an executor to notify implicated creditors within 75 days of the date that letters of probate were granted. If proper notice is not given, there is a significant risk that the estate could get bogged down in litigation. Lack of timely notice is one of the leading causes of probate delays in North Carolina.
- Take a Comprehensive and Complete Inventory and Accounting
An executor is also responsible for taking a comprehensive inventory and accounting of the deceased’s property and assets. If the inventory is incomplete or otherwise inaccurate, there is a significant risk of delay. Without a detailed inventory, the probate court will not close the estate. Further, there are additional litigation risks. An interested party (creditor, heir, other family member) may file a lawsuit. Documentation is important. To the extent that an executor uses property/assets to resolve outside creditor claims, it is crucial that there is a comprehensive accounting.
- Keep a Line of Consistent, Open Communication with Heirs and Beneficiaries
As noted above, one of the biggest risks of probate delays comes from lawsuits. If you have any familiarity with the legal system, you probably already know litigation takes time. By preventing lawsuits, you can dramatically reduce the risk of a probate delay. For this reason, it is a best practice for executors and estate administrators to remain in consistent, open communication with heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties. Positive communication helps to maintain good will and avoid dissatisfaction from the parties.
- Be Proactive: Address Any Issues or Complaints as Soon as They Arise
Every estate is different. While there are preventive measures that you can take to help alleviate the risk of probate delays, it is still possible that some unexpected problem will arise during probate proceedings. To limit the risk of delays, estate administrators should always proactively address problems, concerns, or complaints. To the extent that an issue can be settled or resolved without litigation, it will drastically speed up the probate process. To get more information on fixing problems in probate, contact an experienced estate administration attorney for help.
At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our top-rated North Carolina probate attorneys are skilled, experienced advocates for people and families. We will help you get through the probate process in an effective and efficient manner. If you have any questions about probate in North Carolina, our attorneys are ready to help. Contact us right away for a confidential, no commitment evaluation of your case. With a main law office in Charlotte, we provide probate services in Mecklenburg County and beyond.