Category: Probate
Tags: intestacy, Beneficiaries, inheritance, Estate Tax, Tax Attorney

Why an Executor Might Need Probate Counsel in North Carolina

Posted on: June 6th, 2016
probate counselWhile an executor must take an inventory of the decedent’s estate, notify creditors, calculate and pay taxes, and oversee other estate administration tasks, their knowledge of state and federal legislation pertaining to estate administration might be limited. This limited knowledge poses a risk of errors. To prevent missteps during a time of grief after losing a loved one, an executor might consult with a probate attorney or hire a lawyer to handle much of the legwork in fulfilling their fiduciary duties. Here are several reasons why an executor in North Carolina might seek counsel: 
  1. Liabilities. The executor may be held personally liable if an error occurs in estate administration. Unintentionally unpaid taxes or improperly valued assets could result in harm to the estate for which the executor would be held responsible. Depending on the degree of the error, the executor might risk loss of their own assets to satisfy debts, fines, or penalties. 
  2. Unusual assets. Appraising estate assets may be necessary for tax purposes or if assets will be sold off and the proceeds distributed among estate heirs. Some assets are not as straightforward to valuate. A decedent may have acquired unique collectibles like coin, wine, or art collections, mineral interests, or business interests. The executor will need to locate a qualified appraiser for unconventional items. New tax filing requirements for basis reporting impose deadlines which might fall before an appraisal is complete; this might require the executor to file an amended basis statement at a later date.
  3. Out-of-state executor. If an executor is administering the estate of a decedent who was a resident of North Carolina and had assets in other states, the executor might need to file probate in those respective states depending on the titling of those assets. If probate is required in other jurisdictions, the laws of those states will need to be followed, which may require an agent or representative who is a resident of the state. For example, North Carolina law requires an out-of-state executor to appoint a “resident agent of the state” to accept service of documentation related to the estate. Other states follow similar laws. A probate attorney can identify and explain legislation relevant to the estate.
If the responsibilities of estate administration become overwhelming to the point where the executor no longer wishes to serve, learn about how an executor may be able to step down from their fiduciary role. Seeking probate counsel in North Carolina may help an executor to understand legal requirements and deadlines. It is also an opportunity to identify duties that could be divided and shared by a probate attorney to alleviate the executor’s time and administration strains. Although advance planning is desirable, do not hesitate to connect with a lawyer at any point during estate administration.
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