North Carolina offers two probate shortcuts for "small estates." This makes it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using a probate shortcut -- saving time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
North Carolina offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. You can get a fill-in-the-blanks affidavit form from the local probate (superior) court. You must file the completed affidavit with the court.
When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset. You can use an affidavit to claim personal property (that's anything but real estate) if the value of the deceased person's personal property, less liens and encumbrances, is $20,000 or less ($30,000, not counting spousal allowance, if the surviving spouse is the sole heir). There is a 30-day waiting period. N.C. Gen. Stat. § § 28A-25-1 and following.
The affidavit must state:
The executor attaches a copy of the will to the affidavit.
If the surviving spouse inherits everything, a summary probate procedure is available. However, if the property passes through trust, this option is not available. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-28-1 and following.
The petition must state:
The spouse also pays a filing fee when submitting the petition to the court clerk.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo) or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).