When someone dies in North Carolina, their estate may not always be distributed how you expect. If the deceased didn’t plan ahead, the state courts get involved through a process called probate, where everything from homes to retirement accounts and heirlooms is cataloged and then given out to surviving heirs. This process isn’t free, and the exact amount it costs can vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate.
How Probate Costs Are Determined in North Carolina
During probate, a representative is assigned by the court, the value of the estate is appraised, debts are paid off, and a determination is made about where the remaining assets should go. Probate isn’t a short process by any means, as the courts don’t move quickly. This whole process could leave the estate of your loved one in limbo for months to years, and costs typically include:
- A “general court” fee
- Facilities and data connectivity fees
- Petition fee for a personal representative to be assigned to your case
- Funds used to maintain the estate while probate takes place
- Percentage of the gross estate
That last bullet point needs to be kept firmly in mind, as it can lead to skyrocketing costs well above what you expect. As of 2020, the fee sits at 40 cents for every $100 worth of assets, with a maximum possible amount capped at $6,000. Those numbers may change over time as court fees for probate are periodically updated, however. Talking with an estate planning attorney is crucial for the most up-to-date info.
How an Attorney Can Help Reduce Probate Costs
The good news is that you can potentially reduce or even avoid these various fees altogether by putting together an estate plan ahead of time. Having a will is helpful, but it doesn’t avoid probate entirely. It is also possible to go through shorter, less complex versions of probate, or even skip it in some situations. Potential options include:
- Collection by affidavit
- Summary administration
- Gifting assets to family members before death, although this can have tax repercussions
- Creating trusts to hold property and financial assets that aren’t counted in probate and are distributed according to your wishes after you die
Check with an experienced estate planning lawyer to determine which option may be best for your situation. While it is always better to plan in advance, we can still help with some of these options even if your loved one recently passed and you are about to go through probate. Get in touch with Legacy Lawyers today so we can work together to find out the best way forward.