The probate process in Kernersville exists to ensure that a decedent’s wishes become a reality after their death. For the most part, this involves ensuring that their property is awarded to their intended heirs. However, it also allows parties with legitimate claims against the decedent to collect any outstanding balances.
Overseeing this process is the executor or personal representative of the decedent’s estate. This individual or organization has the sole authority to gather assets and distribute them to the proper parties. At the same time, the probate court (which in North Carolina is the Clerk of Court will act to authenticate a will, appoint an executor, and answer any legal questions that may arise. Because this is often a complex process, many people choose to seek help from a knowledgeable legal professional. An experienced probate attorney at Apple Payne Law will work to answer your questions and take proactive steps to complete the probate process.
To initiate the probate process, someone must inform the court of a person’s death. This is done by filing an application for probate must be submitted, including the original of the decedent’s will. The first major step is the authentication or “probate” of the will.
The will MUST contain the signature of the decedent (or a proper mark), as well as that of two witnesses—this helps confirm the authenticity of the document. Ideally, a will is also properly notarized. If it is not, the Clerk will ask the executor to have the witnesses fill out an affidavit; however if the witness is not available, you may still be able to probate the will. While it is rare, an interested party may contest the will by alleging that it is a forgery or a product of undue influence. At this point, there would be a hearing where the court would consider all evidence when determining whether to uphold the will or declare the decedent to be intestate. Whether a will is valid also has an impact on the second stage of the probate process: appointing an executor.
Once the Clerk of Court accepts a will as valid or chooses to apply the state’s intestacy laws, it must appoint an executor or personal representative to administer the estate. This phase intersects with the authenticating of a will because North Carolina General Statutes § 28A-4-1 allows a testator to nominate a person or organization to serve in this capacity.
Once the Clerk of court appoints the executor or personal representative of the estate, it will grant “Letters Testamentary” to that person or organization. This empowers the executor to gather estate assets, open bank accounts, and distribute assets to the proper parties. Think of it like a “Power of Attorney”, except it is the Court (via the Clerk) that grants you permission to act on the decedent’s behalf.
The executor must first pay the estate’s debts. The probate process includes specific provisions giving creditors the chance to timely file their claim of any outstanding debts in Kernersville. If properly handled, the notice to creditors extinguishes all outstanding unclaimed debts. Once this is complete, the executor will distribute all remaining property according to the terms of the will (to the beneficiaries) or intestacy law (to the heirs).
An executor has the authority to act as necessary to administer to an e. However, the court retains the power to oversee this process, requiring the executor to submit regular status reports (“accountings”) each year as probate moves forward. Once the executor believes probate to be at an end, they submit a final accounting to the court for its approval.
At every stage during this process, heirs and other interested parties should remain vigilant about the executor’s actions. They have the opportunity to challenge these choices or even bring legal action against executors for apparent misconduct. Consulting with a skilled lawyer could help both executors and others to evaluate their rights and obligations under the law.
The probate process in Kernersville is the one opportunity for a decedent’s beneficiaries, heirs, creditors and others to protect their rights under the law. This includes filing the application for probate & will, performing one’s job as an executor, and evaluating the actions of executors in courts.
Reach out to a dedicated attorney at Apple Payne Law for guidance throughout the entire probate process. Our team can help answer any questions you may have and ensure your loved one’s wishes are met. Call now to schedule a consultation.