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Probate Terms in North Carolina

A lot of clients come to our office because they have questions or concerns about probate terms in North Carolina. Though many of the horror stories people have heard about probate are wildly overblown, there are serious issues with which you should be familiar if you’re facing probate case.  There are also a lot of terms that you might encounter in the probate process with which you might be unfamiliar. To help give you a better understanding of some basic probate terms in North Carolina, we’ve come up with this list.

Probate Terms in North Carolina

  • Probate. The probate process takes place after someone dies and leaves behind property in North Carolina. The probate process applies to that person’s estate. The estate is a collection of all the legal issues, property, and debts left behind by the deceased.
  • Clerk of the Superior Court. In North Carolina, probate cases are heard by the Clerk of the Superior Court. The clerk is much like a judge, and has the responsibility to ensure that estate cases comply with any relevant state laws and procedures. The Clerk of the Superior Court serves the same role as probate court judges in other states.
  • Personal Representative. After a person dies in North Carolina, someone has to take over managing the estate. This person is known as the personal representative, the executor, or the estate administrator. The Clerk of the Superior Court is responsible for appointing the representative. The representative is responsible for ensuring that the estate property is managed properly until new owners can be identified.
  • Letters of Administration. Once appointed, the personal representative receives letters of administration from the Clerk of the Superior Court. The letters are the official recognition of the representative’s legal authority, and grant that person the right to begin collecting and using estate property. These are sometimes known as letters testamentary.
  • Decedent. A deceased person whose estate is being probated.
  • Intestate Estates. An intestate estate is one for which the decedent did not create a last will and testament, or one in which the will left behind is legally invalid. Intestate estates must still be distributed to new owners, but because there is no will, the decedent has no say over who inherits. Instead, North Carolina’s laws of intestacy pre-determine who the legal heirs are.
  • Living Probate. Probate cases don’t always involve dead people. Sometimes, people who have lost their ability to communicate or make choices must also have someone appointed to look after the incapacitated person’s needs. These types of cases are often known as “living” probate because they, unlike most other probate cases, involve someone who is still alive.
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