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Probate Terms in North Carolina – Part 2

Last week we looked at several common probate terms in North Carolina. Because probate is a relatively obscure area of the law that most people don’t encounter until after the death of a close family member or loved one, we think it’s important to expand on last week’s list by explaining some additional common probate terms of North Carolina you might come across.

Of course, these lists are not intended to be complete explanations of the probate process or terminology involved. If you have questions about probate terms of North Carolina, contact us for advice.

More Probate Terms in North Carolina

  • Petition. A petition is simply a document you file with court or court official, such as the Clerk of the Superior Court, that asks the court to take a specific action. A petition might, for example, ask the court to name a guardian for a person with disabilities, or to make a ruling on the validity of a last will and testament.
  • Beneficiaries. A beneficiary is someone who receives a gift of property. For example, when you create a trust, you will have to select who the trust beneficiaries are. Those beneficiaries will be able to use, or benefit from, the property the trust owns. Similarly, in the probate process, the beneficiaries are the people who receive property from the estate.
  • Heirs. The term “heir” is not often used in probate circles because it is not precise enough. Legally, an heir is someone who automatically stands to inherit from a person should that person die. North Carolina’s laws of intestate succession determine who your legal heirs are. However, you can change to your heirs are by creating legally valid estate planning tools, meaning you can effectively choose whomever you want as your estate beneficiary.
  • Last Will and Testament. One of the most basic, and important, legal documents at the center of many probate cases is the last will and testament. Every capable adult in North Carolina has the right to create a will, but is under no obligation to do so. Any will you create has to meet specific standards as imposed under North Carolina law. Part of the probate process will be to determine if the last will and testament submitted to the court meets those standards.
  • Holographic wills. A holographic will does not, as its name might imply, involve the use of a hologram or visual image. Holographic wills are wills written entirely in someone’s handwriting. North Carolina recognizes the validity of holographic wills, but only in very limited circumstances. In almost every situation it’s best not to create a holographic will.
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