When people in North Carolina think about planning for the future, they may be worried about what probate would mean for their estate. There are a number of estate planning techniques that can enable assets to pass outside of probate, which is often considered beneficial in terms of avoiding excess costs and saving time. Because there are advantages to avoiding probate, many people may be concerned about potential difficulties and complications if their own or a loved one’s estate goes through the process.

Probate is a public process

However, probate does not need to be too complex. In short, probate is the official legal procedure by which a decedent’s property is distributed, either according to the terms of their will or state statutes if they died without creating a will. In order to go through probate, the will is filed with the probate office and the executor named in the will would be sworn in. If there was no will, an administrator may be appointed to manage the estate. Probate is a public process, so potential heirs or beneficiaries have the opportunity to contest the will within a specific time period.

Probate manages estate distribution

When people pass away without a will or if their will was invalid, the distribution of property would be governed by North Carolina’s intestacy statute, which would provide for distribution to a spouse, children or other heirs. Creditors may also seek repayment from the estate before it is distributed to the beneficiaries.

While probate is, often, not too difficult a process, it can involve professional fees, delays and a more public process. As a result, people may want to make use of trusts and other estate planning techniques to minimize the exposure of their estate to probate. An estate planning lawyer might provide guidance in creating trusts, wills and other key documents.