Administering an estate can come packed with emotions. Often, the Administrator is asked to do a difficult job at a very difficult time. Going it alone in Estate Administration can make you feel isolated and frustrated, and can cost you time and money, a lot of it.
We provide a clear path between you and the successful closing of an estate. If you are local and simply need assistance with the process and forms, we are here. If you are from out-of-town and need full-service administration; locating and reviewing a will; help with getting a fidelity bond; disposal of assets; and communication with heirs, we are here. We customize our package to get you from the opening of the estate to the closing in the most compassionate, knowledgeable, efficient, and cost-effective manner possible.
Tips for the Estate Administrator:
1) Open an Estate as Quickly as Possible:
-Determine if there was a will, if so, who is named as the Executor/Executrix
-Preserve the rights of the spouse, North Carolina allows the spouse an allowance from the funds of the estate for the first year to help transition
-Talk with your attorney about opening an Estate account to handle income and disbursements
-Delaying opening an estate will cost additional time, and probably money
2) Secure the assets of the deceased:
–Gather all checks, credit cards, cellphones and computers, and place them in a safe location. Notify banks, to the best of your ability that the individual has passed. Many banks will require authorization from the estate to freeze an account.
-Change locks, remove garage door openers, and consider placing a home security system with cameras at the home of the deceased, if the home is left vacant.
-Gather car keys and secure the vehicles. Do Not permit anyone to drive the vehicle other than to move it to a safe location. Remove the tags and registration information from the vehicle.
-Minimally, keep the homeowner’s insurance in force.
3) Keep excellent records!
-Every dime that goes into or out of an estate needs to be accounted for. Develop a system to track receipts, statements, checks, etc. Be consistent. Poor bookkeeping can make for a tangled mess at a time when you may be least likely to be able to handle it.
Am I responsible for the decedent’s debts?
No, not unless you are a co-signer on a loan or other account. The debts of the deceased will be paid out of the estate with any assets he/she may have had and the remainder will be distributed to the heirs.
What if we can’t find a will?
Here are some places to look:
- Check with the Estate Office in any county the deceased may have lived in. Some counties in North Carolina will keep the original will.
- Look on key rings for keys that look like safety deposit box keys at a bank. These keys are very distinctive looking and a will may have been placed in this box.
- Check behind pictures in the home. Yes, it’s true! Sometimes those envelopes on the back of pictures hold more than information about the picture.
- Check in the family Bible.
- Check with all family members to see if the existence of a will had been mentioned. The same with life insurance.
- Call attorney offices in the area to see if they had drafted a will.
If you are unable to find a will, the spouse will have the first option to apply to be administrator, then the heirs, next of kin, creditors, and anyone of good character living in the county, in that order. In attorney can help you obtain Letters of Administration and open the estate.
I was named Executor in the will, but I don’t think I have either the skills or time to do it. What should I do?
You have the ability to renounce your right to administer a will. There is a form on NCCourts.org that will allow you to renounce your right. This form also allows you to choose who will take your place.
How do I find out if the deceased had life insurance?
If you are able to gain access to the deceased’s bank accounts, most likely you will find indication of a regular payment made. It could have been an annual, semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly premium. Therefore, you may have to check a years’ worth of statements to know. There are also life insurance databases that you can send an inquiry. The companies that are part of the data base are few, however, they are some of the largest ones. Link: https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome
The deceased passed without a will, but they promised me something from their estate. What should I do?
Unfortunately, the property of the deceased needs to be distributed per the will or per intestate laws. You can, however, make a request to the Administrator of the estate. If all heirs are in agreement to disburse property to you, and all creditors have been paid, you may receive it.
What if the deceased had a very small estate or only one heir, do we need to go through the entire probate process?
No, there is an expedited process for small estates with a limited amount of personal property, or if the estate has a single heir. Your attorney will know the best option for each type of estate.
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