There is a reason why attorneys tell you that probate can be a time-consuming and difficult process. It is not simply a scare tactic.
At the minimum, probate will take many months to complete, and the process will stand between your loved ones and the legal title to the property that they are supposed to inherit. Things can also go wrong during probate, which can plunge your family into legal battles and increase their stress level.
Hiring a probate attorney is a good investment that can allow your family to focus on other important things during a difficult time. Davis Curry Law has an experienced estate planning attorney in Hendersonville who can handle your probate case in a diligent and understanding way, knowing that your family may already be struggling.
How Probate Works in North Carolina
Probate is the process where title to the estate’s assets are transferred to the heirs. If the deceased person owned assets in their name alone, probate would be necessary. Probate is required to administer and settle the estate before the assets can be transferred.
Here are the steps to the probate process:
- The first step is to open the probate process in the county court where the deceased person lived — the person named as the personal representative in the will begins probate.
- The personal representative must file a complete inventory of estate property within 90 days of opening the process.
- The personal representative will publish notice of probate in a local newspaper for four consecutive weeks, so creditors can come forward to present their claims.
- The personal representative will review the claims and pay the debts from the assets of the estate
- The personal representative may sell estate property
- The remaining assets are divided amongst the heirs according to the instructions left in the will
Each of these steps can take time to complete. The personal representative has a difficult job, and they must perform it faithfully, according to an oath.
How Long Probate Takes in North Carolina
Probate is often a case of “hurry up and wait.” You must follow certain timelines in your case, but the court could have a busy caseload.
A lawyer can never give you a definitive timeline for how probate will unfold. Your probate attorney will be able to detail the steps, and they can give you an estimated range. However, like much in the law, the answer to the question of how long probate will take is that it depends.
For an “average” estate, the process may take 6-12 months from beginning to end. More complex estates could add time to the process, potentially lengthening it to as long as two years. If there is litigation, the process may take years to complete.
Regardless, you should expect that the probate process will take time.
Issues That May Arise in Probate in North Carolina
While you may have power over how you complete the paperwork and meet the legal requirements of probate, many unexpected things can happen along the way that could add time, stress and expense. Although you want to be done with probate as soon as possible, you do not get to set the timetable, nor do you have control over who or what may emerge to challenge the process.
Here are some potential issues during probate that can make your life more difficult:
- An interested party may challenge the validity of the will
- Someone may challenge the executor’s actions, claiming that they breached their fiduciary duty (either by acting in a conflicted manner or by being careless)
- Family members could end up in heated conflict with each other
- Creditors could file false or inflated claims of debt against the estate
- The language of the will could be ambiguous or confusing
Hopefully, your probate process goes smoothly, with none of these challenges. However, you should not leave anything to chance, because many things can go wrong during the process.
There is no legal requirement to have a probate attorney representing you. With that in mind, you have every reason to get legal counsel. Here are some reasons why you should hire a lawyer for probate:
- If you are an executor of the estate, you have your own potential personal liability if you are found to have violated your fiduciary duties to the heirs. You may find it worthwhile to ask an attorney if you are in doubt.
- Probate is an opaque process, and you may not know how to handle the technical details (we do)
- There are many steps to the probate process, and you need to get everything right to avoid delays. Hiring a lawyer could help speed up the process.
- Families could end up in disputes over the will, with some family members threatening litigation
Hiring a probate lawyer is an investment that can give you peace of mind. Although having a lawyer does not guarantee a smooth process, it can certainly help you overcome or avoid some obstacles along the way.
FAQs About the Probate Process
Do all the estate’s assets need to pass through probate?
No. If assets are held in joint tenancy, or there are accounts that are transferred upon death, probate will not be necessary for those particular assets.
Are there any simplified probate procedures in North Carolina?
Yes, but they can only be used for very small estates. If there are any significant amount of assets, there is no way around the full probate process. Even smaller estates need to go through some form of the probate process.
Contact a Probate Attorney in Hendersonville, NC Today
Davis Curry Law works with personal representatives and other heirs during the probate process to look out for your interests and make your life easier. We are quick to respond and pride ourselves in providing exemplary client service at a time when you need it the most.
Hiring an attorney can take an immense burden off your shoulders when you need to focus on other things. To speak with a lawyer, you can use our online form or call us today at 828-900-2420.