Estate Administration Attorneys in
Concord, North Carolina
It’s unusual for anyone to have extensive experience with the estate administration process who’s not a professional in the business themselves. After all, it’s usually only after a close family member has passed away that we’re put in charge of administering an estate. This can result in a lot of questions about what to expect and what’s expected from you. This is not an easy job, but it is one that you’ll be able to get through with a little guidance. Working with a skilled state administration attorney can be an indispensable asset during this time.
If you want to learn more about the role of estate executors, contact us at Ferguson Hayes Hawkins, PLLC in Concord, North Carolina. From our home office, we’re also able to serve clients throughout the entire state of North Carolina, including Rowan County, Stanly County, Cabarrus County, Kannapolis, Salisbury, Albemarle, and Harrisburg.
What Is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Administration?
Even if you’ve never been an estate executor yourself or had someone close to you pass away, you’ve likely heard the terms “probate” or “estate administration”—though you may be unclear on exactly what they’re referring to. What’s more, these two terms are often confused with one another, which can make things even more frustrating for someone tackling this role for the first time. Understanding the details of each term from the start can help give you a realistic idea of what you’ll be asked to do so you can better prepare.
The term “probate” is used only to refer to the legal process of moving an individual's will or estate through the court system. This happens when a judge formally assigns someone to the role of administrator or the named executor officially files for probate with the courthouse in the county in which the deceased passed away or lived. During probate, the deceased’s will is verified, the beneficiaries are identified, and the assets that are subject to probate must be processed through the courts.
If the deceased died without a will in place (known as dying “intestate”) the named executor will be responsible for locating all assets and figuring out what beneficiaries they should be distributed to. Most often, this is done using the state’s intestate succession laws.
“Estate Administration” is best thought of as an umbrella term that “probate” falls under. This is because only certain assets will have to go through the process of probate and there are typically many more assets that will need to be addressed outside of probate. Essentially, estate administration refers to the entire process of dealing with someone’s estate both in and out of probate.
For example, there are often many assets that aren’t subject to the rules of probate because they already have a named beneficiary attached to them. These non-probate assets could include a retirement account, IRA, pension, or insurance policy. There will also likely be jointly owned assets where the other owner is still living, trusts, or any number of lower-value assets that need to be dealt with.
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The Role of Executors or Personal Representatives
The executor (if named in a will) or administrator (if assigned by a judge and also referred to as a “personal representative”) has an important job ahead of them, which will cost them both time and money. Many people find it beneficial to work with an estate planning attorney to reduce their workload and ensure they’re in full compliance with the law. The executor is the point person for the entire estate and will likely have to work with the courts, the surviving family, appraisers, creditors, lawyers, and trustees.
The executor is expected to follow the terms of the will as laid out by the deceased which includes locating, organizing, and appraising (if needed) all the assets that were left behind. They will also need to contact all beneficiaries and creditors and pay off any taxes or debts before they are able to distribute the remaining assets to the named heirs.
The Estate Administration Process
Although there are many details that can influence the exact estate administration process you’ll follow, there are some basics that will be the same for everyone:
File a petition with the court: Here the last will and testament will be “proved” and you’ll be officially able to start work as the executor.
Notify family, beneficiaries, and creditors: Anyone who will be affected by the estate or who stands to gain anything needs to be notified right away of the death. This gives creditors a chance to come forward with claims as well as potential beneficiaries.
Gather and organize assets: Depending on the size and scope of the estate, this process can take weeks or even months to complete.
Pay bills and taxes: Even deceased individuals are still responsible for closing out their bills and paying off debts if possible. You will also need to file a final tax return.
Distribute assets: This step comes at the very end and it’s not uncommon for several months to pass before an heir will actually receive anything.
Estate Planning and Administration Attorneys in Concord, North Carolina
If you live in or around the Concord, North Carolina area and you’ve recently been named the executor or administrator of an estate, reach out to our team at Ferguson Hayes Hawkins, PLLC for trustworthy legal help.