People often assume that having a will is enough to keep their estate from going through the probate process after their death.

What is Probate?

In a nutshell, probate is a legal process during which a deceased person’s estate is reviewed and administered by court-appointed representatives. Depending on the circumstance, it can take months, even years, to make a complete account of an estate. During that time, heirs or beneficiaries cannot use funds or other assets.

Does a Will Help You Avoid Probate in North Carolina?

Unfortunately, no. In fact, a will often starts the probate process in North Carolina. The will must be filed with the court so that a representative can be appointed to account for assets and debts and make sure necessary taxes are paid.

Even though a will doesn’t help you avoid probate, it’s still a good idea to have a will drafted with an experienced attorney’s help because it can make the probate process easier and more effective. A will makes your intent clear, allows you to leave money to both people and organizations, and can help the executor navigate any complexities or gray areas.

What Can Help You Avoid Probate in North Carolina?

Although you can’t rely on a will to help you avoid probate in North Carolina, there are strategies you can employ to bypass the probate process. With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, you can determine the best means to ensure your loved ones can receive your assets without having to fight for them in court. For instance:

  • A Living Trust holds legal title to your assets while you are still alive, although you maintain control and receive the benefits. You designate successor trustees to manage your assets if you become incapacitated or pass away.
  • Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety allows you to add a “joint owner” to your assets while you are still alive. Your property and assets will pass to that person upon your death without the need for probate.
  • Pay-on-Death and Transfer-on-Death beneficiary designations can be added to your bank accounts. These allow you to choose your beneficiaries without giving them access to your assets before your death.

For best results, any probate avoidance strategy requires the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you determine the choices that are right for your situation.