Probate Lawyers in Lenoir County Helping Clients Settle Estates
If your loved one has recently passed, you may be left to deal with their estate. If your family member left a will, it is often subject to the probate process. During the probate process, the validity of the will is examined before it can be executed. Unfortunately, the probate process can quickly become complicated, making a probate lawyer very necessary. Probate lawyers can represent an heir to an estate, the personal representative of the estate, or the estate itself.
If you are currently in the probate process or are facing probate soon, our team at Swindell Law Firm, PC, can help. Our experienced lawyers will walk you through the process and identify potential pitfalls to avoid delays. To expedite the probate process and start distributing assets, call our office today at 252-262-1325.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
A probate attorney can wear many hats. Generally speaking, a probate lawyer is there to help settle the estate and assist the executor and any beneficiaries. While there are many things a probate attorney can do, there are a few primary duties they are experienced in.
A probate attorney can help you with the following:
- Paying debts and bills on the estate
- Collecting life insurance policy proceeds
- Paying estate income taxes
- Identifying estate assets
- Paying inheritance taxes
- Retitling assets in any beneficiaries’ names
- Managing an estate’s checking account
- Making final distributions
- Preparing and filing court documents
- Ordering property appraisals for real estate properties
In some cases, a probate attorney may represent both the estate’s heir and the estate itself. In this scenario, a probate attorney can assist with both managing the estate and ensuring all beneficiaries receive the assets they are entitled to. Filing paperwork incorrectly or misrepresenting any aspect of the estate can delay the probate process, so having an experienced attorney on your side is essential.
What is the Probate Process?
Each state has its own probate process that looks slightly different. The probate process in North Carolina generally follows the same timeline, although your unique situation may change the process.
Generally, the probate process is as follows:
- Gathering information. Important documents, like your loved one’s last will and testament, trust documents, and bank statements, must be gathered in one spot.
- Filing legal documents. You must file a document with the court to become the executor or trustee of the estate. If there is no last will and testament, the court would be appointed as the administrator.
- Notifying organizations of your role. As an executor or trustee, you must inform any beneficiaries of the estate as well as the IRS, the Social Security Administration, creditors of the estate, and more.
- Taking an inventory of assets. During valuation and inventory, you will identify all assets your loved one left behind and assign value to them.
- Paying creditors and taxes. The executor or trustee of the estate must identify and notify creditors of the estate. If there are any creditors or taxes to pay, those must be paid before assets are distributed.
- Distributing assets. Following your loved one’s final requests, all assets can now be distributed to beneficiaries.
- Closing the estate. Once all your duties have been fulfilled, you can petition the court to close the estate.
The probate process can be lengthy and may involve complex legal documents and petitions before the court. If you are concerned about executing the estate properly, contact our firm today for legal guidance.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The probate process timeline varies depending on the circumstances of your estate. In North Carolina, the average timeline for the probate process is six to 12 months. However, the process can take much longer if your paperwork is incorrect, incomplete, or contains irrelevant information. If you’d like to expedite the probate process and distribute your loved one’s assets quickly, contact our team of probate attorneys today.
What Duties Does a Personal Representative Have?
An executor or trustee of the estate is also called a personal representative. As a personal representative, you must take an oath promising to fulfill your duties to the estate. You will also be issued either “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration,” giving you the authority to handle the assets included in the estate.
As a personal representative, you are required to do the following:
- Provide notice of the estate to all creditors
- Inventory the assets within the estate
- Pay any valid debts or claims against the estate
- File taxes for the deceased
- Sell assets if there is not enough money to cover debts or expenses
- Open a bank account to pay debts, bills, funeral expenses, and liens
- File all required documents to the court
- Distribute assets according to the deceased’s will
- Show a final statement of transactions to the court
These duties must be completed before the estate can be closed. Unfortunately, the court cannot give you legal advice. If any forms you submit are incorrect or incomplete, the court cannot advise you on how to fix them. However, a probate attorney can review the estate and inform you how to file documents and submit them in a timely manner.
Do I Need a Probate Lawyer?
Dealing with a loved one’s estate can add stress to an already difficult time for you and your family. The probate process is complex but, unfortunately, is necessary for most estates. If you’d like to avoid delaying the process and start distributing assets to yourself and your loved ones, consulting with a probate attorney is in your best interest.
At Swindell Law Firm, PC, our team has years of experience assisting families and personal representatives through the probate process. Whether you need assistance throughout the entire process or just have one specific question, we’re here to help. Call us today at 252-262-1325 for a free consultation.