Understanding The Probate Process In Durham, NC And Your Options Moving Forward
So you inherited a property in Durham, NC from your parents or relatives. What now?
Of course, the answer will depend on a number of factors such as the current state of the property, the number of inheritors, or your current financial situation. Before deciding on what to do with the property however, you first need to consider the probate process in Durham.
What is probate?
According to legal authority, nolo.com, probate is a court-supervised legal process that gives someone, usually the surviving spouse or other close family member, authority to gather the deceased person’s assets, pay debts and taxes, and eventually transfer assets to the people who inherit them.
It is necessary if the deceased person owned assets in his or her name alone. Other assets can usually be transferred to their new owners without probate.
Here are some examples of assets that do not need to go through probate:
- Assets that have joint ownership
- Real estate owned by the deceased with their spouse in “tenancy by the entirety”
- Life insurance proceeds or pension benefits payable to a named beneficiary
- Assets held in a revocable living trust
- Assets for which a beneficiary has been named outside of the will
What is the probate process in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, the probate process is very straightforward. The state court system provides many fill-in-the-blanks forms online, and the process is relatively informal.
The process begins at the Clerk of Superior Court in the deceased’s county of residence. An application is submitted to the clerk by the executor named in a will. If there is no will or the person named in the will is not able or willing to serve, a qualified person can be assigned 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. Opening an estate requires a fee of $120.
Both executors and administrators are known as the “personal representative” of the estate. After the personal representative is appointed, they must take an oath of office, promising to faithfully carry out their duties. If the court appoints you as executor, you will receive “letters testamentary.” If you are appointed as administrator, the court will issue “letters of administration.” Both of these documents give you the authority to handle the assets of the estate.
Here are some things that need to be done by the personal representative:
- Collect and inventory the deceased person’s assets, and keep them safe
- Have assets professionally appraised, if necessary
- Sell some assets, if necessary
- Pay valid debts and taxes, and
- Give out the remaining property as the will (or if there’s no will, state law) directs.
After paying debts and taxes, the personal representative can distribute the property to the people who inherit it. The personal representative must follow the directions in the will, or if there is no will, give property to the closest surviving relatives, as directed by state law.
Before the estate can be closed, the personal representative must file a final accounting with the court. The accounting is a statement showing all the transactions the personal representative entered into on behalf of the estate. (If the estate stays open more than a year, an accounting must be filed annually). The accounting must be accompanied by evidence of all transactions, such as canceled checks, receipts, and bank statements.
Now that you have a better idea about the process, another option could be to sell your Durham house on probate. You might want to consider a cash home buyer in Durham, NC.
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