When a loved one passes away, you may find yourself in the middle of the probate process. Even if you’re not the executor of the will, you could still play a major part in the way things unfold. For example, this holds true if you’re a beneficiary.

An understanding of what happens during the probate process in North Carolina allows you to plan accordingly. While the process never unfolds the same way twice, there are a few things you should expect:

  • Collection of all property: The executor will collect all property of the decedent, such as bank accounts, real estate and other valuables.
  • Payment of debts and taxes: The executor will also pay all debts, taxes and claims owed by the estate. For example, if the person is overdue on their taxes, this will be settled during the probate process.
  • Collection of all rights to income: For instance, this can include the collection of any dividends and/or past due paychecks.
  • Settlement of disputes: This doesn’t always move to the forefront, but it’s always a possibility. For example, a family member may claim that the decedent was improperly influenced into creating a will that left them out. Any dispute will add time to the process.
  • Distribution of remaining property: The final step is the distribution of any remaining property to the heirs listed in the will. After this step, the end is near.

How long does it take? What does it cost?

There is no way of knowing exactly how long the probate process will take, as it depends largely on the complexities of the will and if it’s contested.

Generally speaking, most estates are probated within six to nine months, but this can drag on for many years, such as in the case of a will contest.

In regard to cost, you should expect the following: attorney fees, personal representative fees and court costs.

If you’re going through the probate process, regardless of your responsibilities, it’s critical to understand what is happening every step of the way. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to take critical steps to protect your legal rights in North Carolina and keep the process moving forward.

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