For the average person, navigating the court system can be frustrating and intimidating. Which court handles which type of cases? How do you know where to file documents? What is the proper route to accomplish your goal? These are just a few of the common questions people have when dealing with the court system. Unless you are an attorney, or work in the court system, it may seem impossible to figure out the answers. Of course, the best way to find answers is to consult with an attorney; however, it may also be a good idea to learn a bit more about the system yourself. For example, what kind of cases the North Carolina Probate Court handle? Because you are likely to be involved in a probate matter at some point in your life, this is an excellent question to start with in your quest to learn more about the court system.
The Judicial System Basics
Before looking at the Probate Court specifically, it is a good idea to learn more about the American court system in general. The United States operate under a federalist form of government. This means that we have a strong central government in the form of the U.S. federal government, along with numerous smaller semi-autonomous governments in the form of state governments. Consequently, we also have a federal court system along with semi-independent court systems within each state. All courts, however, must answer to the U.S. COnstitution as the highest legal authority.
The North Carolina Court System
In the State of North Carolina, the highest court is the North Carolina Supreme Court located in Raleigh. The Supreme Court is the last stop for appeals within the state court system. In some cases, a litigant may have the right to appeal to a federal court; however, the Supreme Court is the last stop within the state court system. Directly below the N.C. Supreme Court is the North Carolina Court of Appeals, also located in Raleigh. Like the Supreme Court, there is only one Court of Appeals. When a litigant wishes to appeal a decision made by a lower court it generally goes to the Court of Appeals for a review. The North Carolina Superior Courts are next and are located throughout the state. These courts handle both civil and criminal cases; however, not all criminal and civil matters. Superior Courts handle felony criminal cases and criminal appeals from the lower court while the civil side handles cases involving $25,000 or more and certain other types of speciality cases, including probate matters. Below the Superior Courts are the District Courts, also located throughout the state, which handle lesser criminal cases and civil matters where the amount in controversy is less than $10,000 along with divorce and child support matters.
The Probate Court
The Probate Court in North Carolina is part of the Superior Courts. These courts, found in each county, typically handle the following types of legal matters:
- Probate of Last Will and Testament
- Administration of an estate
- Estates of an incompetent or minor
- Spouse’s year allowance
- Contesting a Will
- Administration of small estates
- Appointment of guardians for minors
- Appointment of guardian for an incompetent
The best way to think of Probate Court is that if you have a legal matter that has anything to do with the estate of someone who has died it will likely be handled in the Probate Court. In addition, if you are seeking guardianship over someone, or have a legal issue relating to an existing guardianship, it will be handled in the Probate Court. As always, however, if you remain unsure which court should handle your legal matter, consulting with an experienced North Carolina probate attorney is the best solution.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the Probate Courts in the State of North Carolina contact the experienced probate attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.