How small estates qualify for probate shortcuts

It is no secret that probate can be extensive and complicated, depending on the amount and type of assets involved, among other considerations. Aside from the lengthy process, probate costs can add to heirs’ and beneficiaries’ worries. If the estate involved is small, they may be concerned about whether there will be anything left after subtracting debts and probate expenses.

Fortunately, many states provide a simplified probate process for small estates, North Carolina being one of them.

Total shortcut: Small estate administration

Small estates in North Carolina can skip the lengthy and costly probate process through Small Estate Affidavit. However, before an estate can qualify for this shortcut, it must meet the following criteria:

  • The total value of the estate assets, after debts and liens, is less than $20,000. If the only beneficiary is the surviving spouse, the total value should be $30,000 or less.
  • The applicant must only submit the request at least 30 days after the estate owner’s death.

Upon approval, the court will distribute the estate assets according to the will, if any, or the state’s intestacy laws. However, note that this procedure can only cover the collection of money, personal properties and other similar assets, and not real estate property.

Partial shortcut: Summary administration

Another method to expedite the probate process is through summary administration. Unlike Small Estate Affidavit, this procedure does not totally exempt a small estate from probate. Nevertheless, it does shorten the processing time, which can also save the applicant money.

If the only beneficiary of an estate is the decedent’s surviving spouse, as stated in the will or under North Carolina’s intestacy laws, and there is no living trust created, the estate will qualify for summary administration.

Simple does not always mean easy

These simplified estate probate processes significantly help those dealing with small estates. But despite their simplified nature, these processes still require specific requirements and information to ensure the estate’s qualification. Heirs and beneficiaries must diligently gather the documents and meticulously prepare their applications.