If you have been named executor of an estate in North Carolina, congratulations! An executorship is a big responsibility, but it can also be enriching. There are many procedures to follow before taking on this role, and we will outline them in this blog post. If there is no one specifically named executor in the will, don’t worry – you can still take the necessary steps to probate the will. The judge may designate you as the administrator of the estate instead. Let’s take a closer look at how to become executor of an estate in North Carolina.

Does the Will Name You As Executor?

The typical estate administration case in North Carolina involves an executor who knows they will be the executor ahead of time. The deceased names them the executor in the will and informs them of their role before their death.

If the will did not name an executor, you may ask the court to name you as the estate administrator instead. In this case, you act as the executor, but under appointment by the court and not the deceased. 

Many individuals named as executors in the will do not understand that there are administrative steps to becoming an executor. Sometimes an executor acts in haste before going through the necessary organizational measures. When the executor acts either out of a desire to resolve things quickly or from a lack of information, they often will immediately start handing out assets, selling cars, and directing the estate. 

However, acting hastily is not the right way to start the administration of an estate and can cause many future problems, including possible personal liability issues.

Sometimes, an executor learns of their role only when someone dies. When they see their name listed in the will as executor, they find out. As an executor, there are many responsibilities, but you need to consider the proper procedures before acting with executor authority. Otherwise, you can face the probate court’s scrutiny.

Instead of jumping in feet first acting as executor, the first thing you must consider is whether you want to take on this role. You may need to retain counsel to assist you in this task which can become complex quickly depending on the estate. 

How Do I Become Executor of Estate?

If you decide to take on the role of executor, your first duty is to file the original Will with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the deceased person resided at the time of death.

Next, you will apply for Letters Testamentary. These official letters show that the Court has granted authority to you to handle the affairs of the estate. You will also swear an oath to act in the estate’s and beneficiaries’ best interests. Sometimes you will also need to post a bond.

What Does an Executor Do?

An executor has to be appointed by the Court before acting as the executor. After filing the will and applying for the letters testamentary, the executor then has many responsibilities, including

  • Prepare an inventory
  • Run a notice to creditors
  • Close accounts
  • Notify beneficiaries
  • Pay debts
  • Handle a plethora of other things for the estate

You may need to hire accountants, estate or probate attorneys, and others to help. Often, the estate will pay the attorneys’ fees as part of administration costs.

Other Duties of an Executor

Depending on the complexity of the estate, you may wear many hats as an executor.

One duty may involve maintaining the real property during the probate period. Often, you’ll need to pay home insurance premiums from the estate monies to maintain coverage. Sometimes, you might also need to open storage for cleaning out a house that must go on the market to pay debts.

Frequently, there are also tax issues that you may need to consider, including:

  • Final income tax return
  • Estate income tax return
  • Estate tax return

An executor needs to know what they are getting themselves into, but sometimes the complexity of an estate will not reveal itself until later in the probate process.

What Goals Should I Aim for As Executor?

A North Carolina executor must be methodical and keep immaculate records when administering an estate.

The goal is to settle the estate as quickly as possible without issues. You want to meet all your responsibilities so that there will be no questions about how you handled the estate when the estate is closed.

We Can Help

If you are named the executor of an estate and think you may need some assistance, contact us at Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna. As probate attorneys, we work with you through every administrative detail until you settle an estate.

We are hired regularly by folks in Wake, Durham, Chatham, Lee, and Harnett Counties and elsewhere in North Carolina to represent Executors and make sure they settle a North Carolina Estate Properly. We are also retained regularly by attorneys in other states to do ancillary probate administration for property in North Carolina, where the decedent was a resident of another state. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

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