When an individual passes away, their estate will likely go through probate depending upon how they planned for their estate. Probate refers to the legal process of transferring the assets of a deceased individual to their heirs. The probate process manages highly valuable and sentimental assets, such as residential homes and stock portfolios.
While those who are grieving a new loss might not feel the emotional or mental capacity to deal with the complex probate process, it is a required legal proceeding that many must go through. To alleviate the stress that traditionally comes with this process, hire a probate attorney. An experienced probate attorney can manage most of the legal burden for you.
We understand the gravity of what our clients are going through when they lose a loved one. We work with many individuals in Charlotte, North Carolina, who come to us for help in estate planning and probate law. We are proud to serve our clients during what is a difficult time of their lives and add a sense of ease and understanding to what can be a complicated legal process. Many previous clients have credited us as being knowledgeable, efficient, and professional in our handling of their probate cases.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of transferring an individual’s assets to their heirs after passing away. This process can take weeks or months to complete and often requires the expertise of a Charlotte, NC probate attorney to manage. The first step is to file a petition with the court to open up probate. Once this is filed, the court will assign a personal representative to the case responsible for managing the deceased’s assets.
The personal representative then takes a comprehensive inventory of all of the assets in the estate and files any necessary paperwork with the court. They will also be responsible for paying off any debts or taxes that the estate owes. Once all the required debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative will then distribute the assets to the estate’s heirs.
How Can Probate Be Avoided?
There are a few avenues for probate that can be avoided that depend on how the individual has planned their estate before their passing.
- Create a living trust. With a living trust, the individual’s assets are transferred to the trust while they are still alive. The trust then becomes the legal owner of the assets, and upon the individual’s death, the assets are transferred to the beneficiaries without having to go through probate.
- Designate certain assets, such as a life insurance policy, to a specific beneficiary. This designation bypasses probate because the asset does not become part of the individual’s estate upon their death. Rather, any pre-designated assets, given either through a will or trust, automatically go to the beneficiary upon the grantor’s death.
- Avoid probate with joint ownership of assets. When two or more people own an asset jointly, such as a bank account or a piece of property, the asset automatically transfers to the surviving owner upon the death of the other owner.
If any of these methods are not legally documented or carried out before the individual’s death, then the assets will have to go through probate.
Tips for a Smooth Probate Process in NC
There are a few things that you can do to make the probate process as smooth as possible:
- Keep detailed records of all of the deceased’s assets and debts. This will make it easier for the personal representative to inventory the estate and file the necessary paperwork with the court.
- Designate a primary and alternate personal representative in your will. This will help to avoid any conflict among family members regarding who should be in charge of the estate.
- If any conflict does arise, try to resolve it as quickly as possible. The longer that the conflict drags on, the more stressful and expensive the probate process will be. Resolve conflict by communicating honestly and openly, compromising when possible, and seeking outside mediation if necessary.
- Work with a probate attorney. Hiring an experienced Charlotte probate attorney can help make the process much easier and less stressful for you and your family. You want to walk away from probate with complete peace of mind, knowing that everything has been taken care of correctly under the law.
Do I Need a Probate Attorney?
While it is not legally required that you hire a probate attorney, it is highly recommended. Probate is not a topic that comes naturally to the average person, so it can be very helpful to have an expert on your side. Probate attorneys are familiar with the probate process and can help you:
- File the necessary paperwork with the court
- Inventory the deceased’s assets and debts
- Pay off any debts or taxes owed by the estate
- Distribute the assets to the heirs of the estate
- Resolve any conflict that may arise during probate
You want to walk away from probate knowing that the individual you are grieving for has had their affairs handled in the best way possible. Hiring a probate attorney will give you peace of mind and help to ensure that everything is taken care of legally and efficiently.
Let’s Handle Probate Together
If you are facing the probate process, call us. We are an established law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, that has helped countless families through the probate process. We are extremely sensitive to the grief and stress our clients are under during this challenging time, and we will do everything in our power to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.
We work with you every step to ensure that your loved one’s estate is handled according to their wishes and there is nothing left for you to worry about.