While I generally counsel my clients to avoid probate by the use of living trusts or other methods, one useful aspect of probate is the provision for publishing a Notice to Creditors. Publishing such a notice in the paper and otherwise following the law allows a decedent's creditors' claims to be extinguished after about three months.
In cases where a decedent has no probate property, but his or her heirs are worried about potential creditors, we generally advise opening a probate proceeding to publish the Notice to Creditors, even though it is otherwise unnecessary.
Our friends in the North Carolina General Assembly have now taken care of this problem, and passed a law providing for a limited proceeding for the sole purpose of publishing the Notice to Creditors. With a $30 fee, and only limited accounting required as to payment of the claims, this will provide an easier and less expensive way to deal with a decedent's creditors.