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We are experienced advisers and advocates in the process of estate administration and trust administration. Our attorneys’ familiarity with the probate process and the courts allows you and your family an easier experience through a difficult time.

If your family is going through the probate process, we will guide you through the following actions:

  • Opening the Estate, with or without a will
  • Notifying heirs
  • Publishing notice to creditors
  • Transferring assets to the intended beneficiaries
  • Submitting annual and/or final accounting

Our lawyers are with you every step of the way. We understand this is often an emotional and unfamiliar process, so we will do all we can to ensure that you can confidently and efficiently comply with your legal responsibility as a fiduciary.

estate administration and probate lawyers in greensboro nc
probate attorney and estate administration in greensboro nc

The Probate process is handled by the Clerk of Court in the County where the decedent (individual who died) resided at the time of their death. As a basic rule, all estates must go through probate, however, the extent of the process varies by circumstances. Most individuals reform to formal estate administration as “probate” but exceptions apply to a full administration.

Probate assets are those things that are titled in the decedent’s own name that do not have beneficiary designations. If there is an original, valid will, that document is filed with the probate department and lays out the road map for the disposition of the estate assets. The will also names an executor or personal representative, who quarterbacks the probate process. Probate is a public process and the will is a matter of public record.

If a decedent does not have a valid, original will, his or her assets will be distributed according to the default statutory instructions. These provisions are called intestacy statutes and describe how the estate is divided and who receives the assets.

If a decedent does not have a valid, original will, his or her assets will be distributed according to the default statutory instructions. These provisions are called intestacy statutes and describe how the estate is divided and who receives the assets.

Small Estates

If an individual dies with a probate estate less than $20,000 (calculated by adding the value of all personal property and subtracting any debt owed) the administration of the estate can be handled by “administration by affidavit”. If the sole surviving heir is the surviving spouse, the amount can be up to $30,000 under current North Carolina law. This process allows for quicker administration.

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The Probate Process

The general steps of probating an estate includes:

(1) Open the Estate-applying for letters of testamentary or administration

(2) noticing creditors

(3) collecting assets

(4) paying creditors

(5) distributing to beneficiaries

(6) Close the Estate- submit a final accounting.

When applying to open an estate you must show the court some connection to the estate. For instance, you are named Executor in the will, you are a beneficiary through intestacy, or no one else is qualified and you are a creditor. Once the Estate is open, the individual granted letters has a fiduciary duty to complete all aspects of the estate.


When an estate is opened there must be a notice to creditors published in a newspaper of general circulation, in the area the decedent lived. The notice must be published for four consecutive weeks. It must contain information necessary for creditors to know where and how to assert a claim against the estate. Creditors are given 90 days to make a claim. If this process is not completed correctly, creditors will retain their right to assert a claim beyond 90 days after the filing of the notice. There are certain creditors whose rights are unaffected by this notice, such as a secured creditor or known creditor.

The administrator of an estate should collect all assets, including using diligent efforts to discover if the decedent had assets unknown to the administrator. Collecting assets and administering an estate may include the need to open up an Estate bank account. At this stage, it is important to understand what assets are part of the probate estate and what assets are excluded for probate purposes. Certain items, such as 401Ks, IRAs, and life insurance are “will substitutes” and do not pass through the probate estate. It is possible for these items to be included in the probate estate however if the beneficiary is not listed or the estate is named as the beneficiary. Those items would be distributed directly to the name beneficiaries listed on the account. Other items can be tricky, such as bank accounts. Some bank accounts are “payable on death” therefore they do not go through the probate process if they have a clear beneficiary.


Settling the decedent’s debts is an important part of the probate process. Before assets are distributed to heirs, all valid debts must be paid. However, creditors are entitled only to the decedent’s probate assets. If there are insufficient assets to pay debts, creditors only receive a fraction. State statutes determine the order in which debts are paid. It is the responsibility of the administrator to ensure creditors are properly paid.

Closing the Estate

In order to complete the probate process, it is necessary to submit a final accounting to the clerk of court which is then approved. This is a very important part of the process and cannot be overlooked. It is the fiduciary duty of the administrator of the estate to formally notify the Clerk of Court that all assets were properly collected, creditors were paid, and beneficiaries received what they were entitled to in a timely manner. Failure to timely file a final accounting can result in the issuance of a Show Cause for the administrator which carries with it potential jailtime.

Make Your Appointment with Our Office Today

Learn more about how we can help you through estate administration and probate in an initial consultation with our firm’s team. You can schedule your appointment by calling our office at (336) 333-7907. Or you can also reach us by submitting the contact form below.