Cary, NC probate attorney discusses the next steps if you’ve received a Notice to File. Call 919-443-3035 to schedule your needs assessment call.

If you are the executor or administrator of an estate proceeding, your to-do list is likely long and complicated. Managing all executor responsibilities and filing all forms on time can be challenging. Perhaps something fell through the cracks, and now you’ve received a Notice to File from the Clerk of Court.

A Notice to File can easily be addressed and resolved. A probate lawyer can help you navigate the next steps. Our legal team at Carolina Family Estate Planning is here to help you in any way possible as you face handling probate or estate proceedings.

Before we explore what a Notice to File is and what to do next, let’s review some helpful definitions regarding probate and estate administration as used in this article.

Probate and Estate Administration Terms

Probate or Estate Administration

Probate and estate administration are both terms referring to the court process that oversees the settlement of an estate after someone has died (decedent). The law calls this process “probate” when there is a will and “estate administration” when there is no will.

In this article, we will use “probate” to refer to the estate settlement process.

Executor or Administrator

The executor or administrator of an estate oversees the estate’s settlement. The law calls this person the “executor” when there is a will and the “administrator” when there is no will. This person is responsible for filing the required forms, managing the payment of debts, and managing the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries of an estate.

In this article, we will refer to a person in this role as the “executor.”

What Is a Notice to File?

A Notice to File is an official letter from the Clerk of Court that lets an executor know they have missed a filing deadline. There are a few circumstances under which you may receive a Notice to File as the executor of an estate.

Failure to File an Inventory

The executor of an estate receives the authority to pay taxes and debts, close accounts, and perform all other duties required in settling an estate when they receive letters of testamentary from the court. As an executor, you have 90 days, in general, to file an Inventory for Decedent’s Estate (Form AOC-E-505) once you have the letters testamentary.

If you do not file the proper inventory form before the end of 90 days, you will receive a Notice to File regarding the inventory. If you need guidance on filing an inventory, be sure to contact a probate lawyer on our team.

Failure to File an Annual Account

The executor must file an Annual Account (Form AOC-E-506) no later than one year after becoming qualified to serve. If the estate is not closed within a year, the executor must file a request to keep the estate open and submit an Annual Account. Every year after that, an Annual Account must be filed until the Final Account is filed.

Notice to File assistance at Carolina Family Estate Planning

Failure to File a Final Account

Once the executor pays outstanding taxes and debts, distributes all assets, and completes all other tasks necessary to close an estate, the court requires filing a Final Account (Form AOC-E-506). 

Unless the Clerk of Superior Court has granted an extension of time for good cause, the executor must file a Final Account within one year of the date on which they qualified to serve. If the executor needs more time to complete settlements before closing the estate, they must file an Annual Account.

Failure to file one of these forms one year after becoming the executor (and every year following if you keep the estate open) will result in a Notice to File. 

Contents of Accounts

Accountings filed with the Clerk of Superior Court must be signed under oath and include the following:

  • The period covered by the account and whether it is an Annual or Final Account;
  • The amount and value of the estate's property as determined by the inventory and appraisal or by the previous accounting, the amount of income and additional property received during the accounting period, and all gains from the sale of any property or from any other source;
  • All charges, payments, losses, and distributions;
  • The property on hand that constitutes the estate’s balance, if any; and
  • Such additional facts and information as the Clerk of Superior Court determines are necessary for an understanding of the account.

Whether you received a Notice to File for an Inventory for Decedent’s Estate or an Annual or Final Account, there’s no need to panic. These things happen during the chaotic time after a death. The court is generally understanding and willing to work with you, and one of our estate planning, wills, and trust attorneys can guide you through the next steps.

What Do I Do Next?

In general, as the executor, you need to file the missing forms within 30 days of the Notice to File, but the court may grant extensions if necessary. An executor must file a Motion to Extend Time to File if they need more time to gather the required information.

It may be tempting at this point to seek help from the people who sent you the notice, but they will not be able to help you. Probate is a legal process within which the court must remain neutral. By law, the law forbids them from giving legal advice.

If you need guidance on completing and filing the proper forms, your best option is to contact one of the probate lawyers at Carolina Family Estate Planning.

Get Help From a North Carolina Probate Lawyer in Cary, North Carolina

Compliance is tricky in all areas of law, but probate in North Carolina can be an exceedingly lengthy and complicated process. If you’re the executor of an estate and have received a Notice to File, don’t hesitate to contact one of our probate or estate planning attorneys.

Before you type “probate attorney near me” into a search engine, call our offices and speak to one of our knowledgeable and experienced probate lawyers. Call us in Cary, North Carolina, at 919-443-3035 today or schedule a needs assessment call with a member of our friendly, professional legal team.

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The information in this blog post (post) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning