Probate is court supervised estate administration. It’s the process of administering and settling an estate after a person dies. North Carolina has very specific rules about how probate is done, with strict court oversight. Probate will be required whether or not a person had a Will, if there were sufficient assets the decedent’s name that require administration. Not all assets require administration. For example, jointly owned accounts may pass directly to the surviving owner. Similarly, assets with beneficiary designations including IRAs, life insurance policies and annuities will not pass through probate (unless the estate was named as the beneficiary).
Probate can be time consuming, costly and difficult. If you’re doing your own estate planning now, you should take the time to learn whether probate is something you should plan to avoid for yourself and your heirs, to simplify their life after your passing. And if you’re the person handling an estate or a beneficiary of an estate, you should understand your rights and responsibilities under the North Carolina probate laws.