If you recently lost a loved one, you may be intimidated by the seemingly lengthy and complex process of probate court. Still, not every estate requires the complete probate or estate administration process. If the estate is small, it may qualify for a process that is not as lengthy or demanding as traditional probate court.

If you are the executor or administrator of an estate in North Carolina and need help, contact a probate lawyer at Carolina Family Estate Planning. Call 919-443-3035 today to schedule a needs assessment call, and we’ll help you get on track for a secure future, whether you need a small estate filing or full estate administration.

What Is a Small Estate?

According to North Carolina state law, an estate may qualify as a small estate under certain conditions that change depending upon what the marital status of the deceased (decedent) had been. North Carolina law considers the estate of a single decedent to be a small estate if their personal property does not exceed a value of $20,000. For a decedent who was married, that amount rises to $30,000.

The value of personal property includes automobiles, bank accounts, art, and other belongings but typically does not include real property, insurance policies, retirement accounts, or estate assets in a trust.

What Are the Three Types of Small Estate Filings?

Small Estate Filings

If the estate in question meets the qualifications to be a small estate, executors, spouses, or heirs may resolve it with a small estate filing. Three types of small estate filings exist in North Carolina. 

1. Petition for Year’s Allowance

A Petition for Year’s Allowance resolves a small estate. This option is applicable for a surviving spouse or minor children. The petition asks the court to transfer assets from the decedent’s name to the spouse’s or child's name. This is how a spouse may take control of a deceased partner’s bank accounts, car loans, etc.

The surviving spouse or child may receive personal property from the decedent’s estate up to a value of $60,000. If the personal property value is less, the court files a deficiency judgment. That means the spouse or minor child becomes the primary estate creditor, entitled to any assets added to the estate up to the maximum amount.

The implication is that if a decedent's creditor tries to claim an asset to pay off outstanding debt, the spouse or child has the right to claim it first. The Year’s Allowance protects surviving spouses and children from outside creditor claims against the estate and ensures financial stability during the estate resolution process.

If you need help with a Petition for Year’s Allowance, contact a probate lawyer at Carolina Family Estate Planning.

2. Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property of Decedent

Also called “Collection by Affidavit,” this is a more formal process than the Year’s Allowance but still not a complete probate. It permits a collector to complete the administration of the estate. The decedent’s estate executor, child, or creditor may file for a Collection by Affidavit.

Once authorized, the collector manages the payment of estate debts and the distribution of remaining personal property to all beneficiaries. This process is often cheaper than formal probate and has a time limit of 90 days, making it a rapid process compared to some probate matters, which can stretch on for years.

3. Summary Administration

A Summary Administration can resolve a small estate only if the decedent’s spouse is the sole beneficiary (who may or may not be named in a will). This simplified estate resolution process allows the surviving spouse to transfer all the decedent’s personal property into their own name.

This process can be risky because the transfer includes the estate’s debts and other liabilities, becoming the surviving spouse’s responsibility to pay. For this reason, it is usually preferable to resolve an estate with a large amount of debt through formal probate rather than a Summary Administration.

Hire a Probate Attorney From Carolina Family Estate Planning

We understand that losing a loved one is difficult and only becomes more challenging when you deal with the complexities of probate law. Before you type “probate attorney near me” into a search engine, reach out to one of our probate attorneys at Carolina Family Estate Planning as we are here to help you through this difficult time. 

At Carolina Family Estate Planning, we help families build better lives by planning for a secure future. 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.