When someone dies leaving assets titled in his or her name, probate proceedings are generally required. Probate refers to the legal process that allows a surviving spouse or other close family member the authority to engage in administrative functions on behalf of the deceased’s estate in order to pay any debts, taxes and transfer assets to the appropriate heirs. Probate can be complicated and will likely require the advice and assistance of a competent probate attorney in Lee County North Carolina. If your loved one has passed away and you do not know what to do, you should contact a probate attorney in Lee County North Carolina as soon as possible to guide you through the probate process.
During the probate process, the court will appoint a personal representative to take charge of the estate. If there is a will, the court will appoint the executor named in the will as the personal representative. In the absence of a will, the court will appoint an administrator. If there is a surviving spouse, he or she has first priority to be appointed as administrator of the deceased’s estate.
Certain assets of a decedent’s estate may be transferred without going through probate. Some common examples of these types of assets include:
- assets of the decedent owned in joint tenancy, which automatically pass to the surviving owner;
- real estate of the decedent owned with his or her spouse in “tenancy by the entirety”;
- assets for which a beneficiary has been named outside of the will such as payable-on-death bank accounts or retirement accounts;
- proceeds from a life insurance policy or pension benefits that are payable to a named beneficiary;
- assets held in a revocable living trust.
If you have any questions about the administration of a deceased relative’s estate, you should consult with an experienced probate attorney for more information about wills, estates and the probate process.