When someone dies, probate is the process of distributing the decedent’s property as outlined in the will. Not all assets go through probate, but many of them do.
The person who has a major role during probate is the personal representative. There are various duties this individual is responsible for, and the process can take months or even years.
Assets that go through probate
According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, probate assets include bank accounts, jewelry, vehicles, furniture, artwork and stocks. Assets that do not go through probate include those which already have a named beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy, joint bank accounts, retirement accounts and property with a right of survivorship.
What is necessary to start the probate process
The administration process begins with the clerk of court in the county where the decedent died. Items needed include the will, a certified death certificate, a preliminary inventory of property, an application and a filing fee.
Appointing of the personal representative
A personal representative is responsible for carrying out estate administration. The will may name this individual, or the court appoints someone if there is not one named in the will.
Duties of the personal representative
FindLaw discusses the various important responsibilities the representative is in charge of. One is to send a copy of the death certificate to various companies regarding the decedent, including the Social Security Administration, the IRS, insurance companies, credit card companies and utility companies. Another is to locate and inform the beneficiaries named in the will.
Other duties include:
- Gathering and safeguarding assets and properties
- Collecting debts owed
- Paying debts and liquidating assets if needed for cash
- Filing taxes
The last remaining duty, before closing the estate, is to transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries.