If a loved one passes away without owning many assets, you may want to settle the estate without going through the probate process. There are many good reasons to skip the probate line and move straight into settling an estate. In North Carolina, you will need to get a small estate affidavit. But what is a small estate affidavit, and what does it do for you?

The North Carolina small estate affidavit is an alternative to the probate process. If it has been 30 days or more since the time of the decedent’s death, you may be eligible for a small estate affidavit to settle the deceased’s estate. 

Inventory the Small Estate

To inventory the estate and reach a total, you will need to add checking and savings accounts along with the value of personal property in the deceased’s name. Then you will subtract the amount of the deceased’s debts. This number shows your eligibility for a small estate affidavit estate closing rather than a probate process.

The monetary conditions for filing the affidavit include:

  • If the net combined assets in the deceased’s name do not exceed $20,000 in value OR 
  • If married, the net combined assets in the deceased’s name only do not exceed $30,000. These totals do not include real property (real estate) or retirement accounts and life insurance policies that already have a named beneficiary. 
  • However, if you plan to sell any real property within two years of the death, consult an attorney for the implications and affidavit application process. Since you plan to convert real property into cash, it may count toward the total estate asset amount. 

Married Couples

If your spouse dies and you are the sole heir, you can go through a process to settle the estate without probate. This process is different than the small estate filing process. Discussing your obligations for any debts or claims of the estate with your attorney is best. You will need signature cards as proof of assets. There is a closing fee involved in settling an estate this way and you must complete several forms, applications, and petitions. You can start the process at NCCourts.gov Intestate

Fill out Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (AOC-E-203B)

Make sure to fill in all of the information correctly on the AOC-E-203B. Include all beneficiaries or heirs and list them with full names and addresses. The Court Fee to start the process is $120. You’ll also need to complete the Estate Tax Certification form (AOC-E-212). 

If there is a will, you will have it probated by a judge in each county where the decedent owned property. Probating a will is the process of a judge signing off on the fact that the will is indeed the correct and true last will and testament of the decedent.

You will also need a certified copy of the death certificate. Send your completed documents to the clerk of court in the county where the decedent lived.

Out of State 

If you are not a North Carolina resident, please fill out the Resident Process Agent form (AOC-E-500). This form appoints a resident process agent to provide a North Carolina point of contact for Court service. The appointed agent must sign the form in front of a notary.  

A Resident Process Agent is the North Carolina resident selected by the out-of-state applicant. They accept mail and other “service of process” regarding estate matters.

Closing the Estate

After you have turned in all documents and settled the estate, you will file the Affidavit of Collection Disbursement and Distribution when you close the estate. This affidavit will also go to the clerk of court in the county where the decedent lived. 

The process of settling an estate is not simple. There are often taxes, appraisals, estimates, accounting, and inventory filings that must be completed. If you file the affidavit, you will accomplish the work of closing the estate for the court. You also distribute any inheritance for the benefit of heirs. Filing taxes on behalf of the decedent also makes you personally legally liable for mistakes. If you don’t understand how to complete something, make sure to contact an accountant or attorney who specializes in probating estates.

Do You Need Help?

If you need help with this legal affidavit process and closing of an estate, our experienced probate attorneys at Hopler, Wims, and Hanna can walk you through each step. There is no need to stress and worry about estate taxes and inventories. We are on your side and happy to help. Give us a call or contact us online today and get started with the probate process with confidence.

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