What the Heck Do These Words Mean? Probate Part 1

Hey there, my name is Ron Payne. I’m the CEO and Managing Partner of Apple Payne Law in Kernersville. I just wanted to answer and define some of the words when you’re talking about probate what some of these words mean, because they get thrown around a bunch, but they’re not words we use in everyday conversation.

Like, for example, nobody walks around and says, Well, my decedent this, my decedent that. Who is the decedent? The decedent is just the legal way of saying who passed away, whose probate this is.

And then what is an estate? Well, an estate is everything they own, and in the case of probate an estate is everything that’s going to pass through North Carolina. Life insurance policies have a beneficiary. They’re not going to pass through probate; they’re going to go straight to the beneficiary. So you know, so that’s not part of it. But an estate generally means all of their property that they own at death.

A will or a last testament — most folks know what that is. But that’s the document that usually you have drafted by an attorney that just says, Here’s what I want to have happen when I die. And there’s very strict requirements on what constitutes a proper will in North Carolina law. So that’s what that is.

And then probate is another term where you may be like, what does that word even mean? It has two meanings. One refers to the, you know, formal process of submitting the will of the court. So it’s the process of estate administration.

So if somebody passes away, in probate, what we’re referring to is that process from when we turn it into the clerk of court, we account for all the monies, we pay all the bills and the creditors and anybody that may be out there, and then we distribute the assets to the heirs. Then, probate or probating the will, in the verb sense, just refers to the actual process where the clerk of court or the judge if it goes to them, certifies that a will is compliant with the North Carolina statutes, and that’s called probating the will.

So you have probate, which generally refers to the overall process. And then probating, the will, which means where the clerk actually looks at the will and approves it, to go through.

And then the last word that you hear thrown out a lot that I want to define today is intestacy. What does that mean? Well, if somebody passes intestate, or under the laws of intestacy, that means they passed without a will. It could be because technically estates that have a will and estates that don’t have a will are handled differently under a will it passes according to the terms and conditions of the will.

And if there’s no will, it passes according to the terms of intestacy, which is where North Carolina says, Well, if you don’t tell us what you want, we’ll put in some default provisions for you. We don’t want that to happen to you or anybody.

So if you don’t have a will come to see us today and we’ll get you taken care of for you. But I hope these simple definitions of these terms have been helpful for you and educate you a little bit more about some of those funky words that we use when we’re talking about probate and estates and decisions.
And, as always, if you have any other questions, or there are things you’d love to know about on our YouTube channel, like, subscribe, leave a note in the comments, and let us know what questions of yours we can answer for you. We’d be happy to do that.

Of course, we’d love to set up a consultation with you. Give us a call at (336) 281-6928 and we’ll set you up with a free estate planning or probate consultation to talk about how we can help you take those heavy matters off your plate and let you care about what matters most to you.

Again, my name is Ron Payne, and I look forward to speaking with you again here in the near future. Thanks. Have a great day.

Author Bio

Ronald D. Payne II
Ronald D. Payne II is the CEO and Managing Attorney of Apple Payne Law, a North Carolina law firm he founded in 2018. With more than 11 years of experience practicing law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including business law, estate planning, family law, probate, and traffic law.

Ronald received his Juris Doctor from the Wake Forest University School of Law and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being awarded the 2020 Client’s Choice Award by Avvo and multiple Rising Star awards from Super Lawyers.

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