Cary Attorney Providing Legal Help For Probate, Estate, and Trust Administration Matters
If you are designated as an executor or as an administrator of an estate, your task is ensuring that the decedent’s wishes are carried out while remaining compliant with state and federal laws. You will need the help that Cary probate, trust and estate administration attorneys from NC Planning can offer.
The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult events we can face. Distributing a loved one’s assets, with or without the guidance of a will, can add even more anxiety to a difficult time. If there is no will, North Carolina law has a process to determine who can serve as the administrator of the decedent’s estate. Typically, that person will be the spouse or another immediate relative.
How Can an Estate Administration Attorney Help?
If you are designated as an executor, administrator, or trustee of a loved one’s trust or estate, you may not be given a great deal of guidance. Wills and living trusts are not always well-written, and mistakes cost your family and the estate. Figuring out what to do and when to do it is stressful, especially if you are still in the process of mourning the loss of a loved one.
How can you have certainty as an executor, an administrator, or a trustee? The right attorney can help you by providing sound, insightful, and timely guidance and advice. Together, we will get through this emotionally challenging time and ensure that the decedent’s wishes are carried out as they intended.
NC Planning has an estate administration team that can handle every detail of the probate process from start to finish on your behalf. When you transfer your responsibilities to our estate administration team, your loved one’s estate will be handled by trusted professionals.
Our legal team handles probate administration matters for modest estates as well as complex estates that may have interests and assets in a number of jurisdictions. We have the legal resources and skills to handle all probate, trust, and estate administration matters.
What Are the Primary Benefits Associated with Having Cary Estate Administration Attorneys?
Having Cary estate administration attorneys by your side brings many benefits to the table. Even something as simple as drafting a will—and later probating that will—should never be taken lightly. When the long-term legal, financial, and personal repercussions are considered in the language of the estate planning documents, administration becomes simpler as well. In particular, having an estate administration attorney from NC Planning can help minimize family conflicts following the death of a loved one. Any ambiguities associated with the language of the estate plan can be eliminated when an estate administration attorney is part of the equation.
An experienced NC Planning attorney can help the entire estate administration process go more smoothly and quickly as well as help protect the estate from legal claims. Legal claims against an estate occur more often than you might think. When creditors or family members contest an estate plan, your wishes can be impacted and those you chose to inherit your estate can be prevented from doing so. An estate administration lawyer will ensure legal claims against your estate are quickly handled.
Some estates are particularly complex, especially those containing a variety of investments, overseas property, and other financial assets. A knowledgeable estate administration attorney can offer insight into complicated issues that can be invaluable during this difficult time. Your NC Planning attorney brings experience, the process, answering questions and addressing concerns from those struggling to deal with the death of a loved one.
What Are the Risks Associated with Not Having an Estate Plan?
When you die with no estate plan in place, you may be unwittingly leaving your loved ones in chaos. There is a lack of control over who will receive your assets if you die with no will, no trust, and no overall estate plan. Since “who gets what” is determined by state statute (with no regard for actual emotional relationships between you and your loved ones), your assets could go to those you would not have chosen. Other risks associated with not having an estate plan may include:
- A guardian you would not have chosen could be appointed for your minor children. You can choose a guardian for your children—someone you trust to raise and care for your children if you and your spouse are both gone.
- Inheritances may be lost to creditors, predators, or poor choices. You may have children or grandchildren that you know are not currently mature enough to handle an inheritance. Having an estate plan allows you to protect those inheritances until the recipient is ready to manage them.
- You will have no provisions in place for asset protection. As you get older, this becomes even more important. Should you need long-term care, your spouse or other family members may need to apply for Medicaid to pay the significant costs of a nursing home. If you have not taken steps to protect your assets, they could all be taken to pay for your care.
What Are the Risks of Not Having an Estate Administration Attorney?
When family members attempt to handle probate and estate administration, they can inadvertently pay the wrong bills at the wrong time. Each state has laws regarding how creditor payments should be handled following a death. In some cases, they must be paid in a certain order—if they are not, the window for them to come forward is extended and the personal representative might have to pay out of their own pocket. Assets could also be distributed to heirs at the wrong time. All obligations must be fully met before the personal representative can distribute assets to the decedent’s heirs. Overall, the administration of an estate can be a complicated process without the help of an estate administration attorney.
What is the Estate Administration Process?
When you have NC Planning attorneys assisting with your estate administration process, all the necessary paperwork—including the will and death certificate—will be filed with the court to begin the probate process. The paperwork will be filed at the probate court located in the county where the decedent lived. If the decedent died without a will, your attorney can help choose a person to apply for the role of administrator.
All involved parties will be notified, including heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. All assets will be inventoried and filed with the probate court, consolidating estate funds to the extent possible. After it is determined which debts are valid, these debts will be paid from an estate checking account. Final tax returns for the decedent will be filed and estate taxes paid when necessary.
If the estate earns any income during the administration process, the estate may require its own tax identification number. The heirs to the estate will receive their distributions, and a final accounting will be filed with the probate court. This will be a highly detailed account of everything done by the personal representative of the estate. The court will review and approve this final account and, when necessary, the representative will tie up any loose ends.
What Are Some Common Issues Associated with Estate and Trust Administration?
Whether you are the executor of an estate or an heir, it is important to have a good understanding of the legal aftermath that occurs after a death. The term “probate” refers to the legal process through which the decedent’s assets are inventoried and distributed. Unfortunately, in some cases, complications can arise that cause estate administration to drag on for an extended length of time. The longer probate continues, the more financial costs increase. The extended time can cause distress and deepen family conflicts, taking an emotional toll on all those involved. Some common issues associated with estate and trust administration include:
- The executor or personal representative is not fulfilling the obligations associated with probate. As a fiduciary, the personal representative is expected to maintain compliance with the law, while placing the best interests of the estate above their own.
- There are contests or disputes to the estate. Any interested party—including heirs, those named in the will, spouses, or children—can challenge the validity of a will. These challenges are usually based on the grounds of undue influence, fraud, improper execution, incapacity, or forgery. If there are missing documents or conflicting wills, disputes can escalate.
- Property was owned in multiple states by the decedent. The more complex the estate assets, the more time-intensive probate can become. When real estate is owned in multiple states, separate probate proceedings will likely need to be addressed in each state to avoid clouded titles.
- There are multiple creditor claims to the estate. The personal representative may be required to publish notice to creditors of the estate, processing the payment of all valid claims. Any creditor claims that are illegitimate or unreasonable must be challenged, and any creditor disputes resolved.
- The estate plan of the decedent is unclear, out of date, or incomplete. Incomplete estate plans leave room for family conflicts and disputes. If the language of the estate plan is unclear, the same can occur. If the estate plan has not been updated to reflect changes—such as a beneficiary who has passed away—the estate administration can become more complex.
What Are the Most Common Probate Mistakes?
Executors are held personally responsible for estate administration errors and mistakes, even if unintentional. Without the right attorney’s guidance, executors commonly make these types of probate mistakes:
- Tax errors: An executor prepares, submits, and pays the decedent’s final IRS return. Anyone could make serious tax mistakes without an attorney or CPA’s help, and a failure to file the IRS Form 8971 Estate Information Form may lead to substantial fines.
- Missing a step: An estate’s executor must find and file the will with the court, inventory assets, notify creditors, and pay an estate’s debts. If the executor intentionally or unintentionally misappropriates funds, misses deadlines, or abuses their power, a creditor or an heir may sue for damages.
- Misunderstanding probate laws: Misunderstanding the law could cause financial losses for the estate and the heirs. The right probate attorney can explain clearly what executors, administrators, and trustees in North Carolina need to know.
If you’re named as the executor of a will or as an administrator of an estate, arrange to meet with a probate attorney at NC Planning as soon as possible. We will guide you through the entire process to ensure you don’t make any of these crucial mistakes that could affect the estate or the decedent’s heirs.
How NC Planning Helps You Plan for the Road Ahead
We handle various probate, trust, and estate administration matters, including debt and tax issues, asset distribution, and eventually, closing the estate. After losing a loved one, you will want a lawyer who has helped others in the same circumstances. Every client receives quality legal services and complete personal attention at NC Planning.
We provide all of our estate planning and probate clients with effective representation and affordable, innovative legal solutions. To learn more about how we can help you with trust administration, estate administration, or the probate process, schedule a consultation with our team. To book your consultation, call NC Planning at (919) 568-3681 or complete the contact form here on our website.
Our offices are located in Raleigh at 4801 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 200. We also have offices in Cary located at 5640 Dillard Drive, Suite 101. We are trusted throughout North Carolina to provide the probate and estate planning solutions that our clients need.