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Probate in North Carolina

The full probate process in North Carolina can be complex and generally takes about a year to complete. Sometimes probate can be completed within 6 months of filing the will, and other times, depending on complexities, responsiveness of heir/beneficiaries, and the Court, this process can take longer than a year.

If there are assets subject to probate, it’s vital to consult with a probate estate administration attorney in order to determine what steps are needed to open and close a loved one’s estate. North Carolina has varying complexities and nuances to the probate process, which can include a simple filing of an Application and Assignment Year’s Allowance (often called a Spousal Allowance or Child’s Allowance for children defined under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 30-17), an Application for Assignment of Vehicle title; a Small Estate Affidavit for Estates; or Summary Administration.

Here is a general timeline of the Full Estate probate process in North Carolina:

Event During Probate Process Deadline and additional Information
Filing of Will If a Will exists, the Will must be filed by the named Personal Representative (Executor) within 60 days of date of death. If the Personal Representative does not file the will within 60 days, any named beneficiary or interested party in the Will can file the Will and open a probate proceeding after providing the Personal Representative 10 days notice. State law allows for two years for the Will to be entered into court records, but it is certainly best practice to file the Will sooner.
Qualification of Personal Representative Qualification of a Personal Representative (Executor or Administrator) occurs upon the proper filing of an Application for Letters. An Application for Letters Testamentary is filed if a Will exists. An Application for Letters of Administration is filed if no Will exists. In addition to the Application for Letters, various other documents must be filed to properly qualify (i.e. original Will, original Death Certificate, Oath, potentially a Bond or Bond Waivers, potentially a Renunciation of Right to Qualify, and potentially a Resident Process Agent if you are not a North Carolina resident).
Notice to Creditors North Carolina law requires that every Personal Representative notify by publication all persons, firms, and corporations having claims against the decedent’s estate to present them to the Personal Representative on or before a day named in the notice which must be at least 3 months from the date of the first publication. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-14-1(a)
Inventory of Probate Assets Within 3 months after the date of qualification (when Letters are issued), the Personal Representative must file with the Clerk an inventory of all the real and personal property of the decedent. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-20
Closing the Estate Annual Accounts/Final Account According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-21-2, the Final Account for the estate is due by the later of (1) one year after the date of qualification, (2) six months after a North Carolina estate or inheritance tax release or (3) the 15th day of the fourth month after the close of the fiscal year for the estate, unless the time for filing the Final Account has been extended by the Clerk. Until a Final Account is filed, the Personal Representative is required to file an Annual Account with the Clerk for so long as estate assets remain within the Personal Representative’s possession or control. Although uncommon, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-21-6 permits a Personal Representative to provide written notice of a proposed Final Account o all heirs/beneficiaries. This notice is not required, but it provides protection for the Personal Representative from a challenge to the Personal Representative’s actions that might not be raised until after all distributions have been made
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