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  • Writer's pictureDenise Davis

How to file probate in North Carolina without a lawyer

Updated: May 8

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How to File Probate Without a Lawyer

There is no doubt that qualified lawyers in North Carolina can help their clients solve legal problems. However, unfortunately, lawyers are often expensive, and people do not want to pay for a lawyer’s services if they can resolve the legal issue by themselves.

One legal issue that people in North Carolina may be able to resolve without a lawyer is probate.

This article describes how to file probate in North Carolina without a lawyer.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that arises after a person’s death. Probate is supervised by a court.

Probate serves three basic functions:

1. To validate the decedent’s Will (the person who died), if any;

2. To appoint a person to manage the decedent’s estate. If this person is designated under the decedent’s Will, this person is known as an executor. If the decedent did not have a Will, this person is known as an administrator; and

3. To distribute the decedent’s assets to the decedent’s creditors and beneficiaries.

If real estate is involved, probate is necessary to properly transfer “clean” title to the new owners.

[Need help with probate? We offer helpful probate services and will work with you to find the plan that meets your needs. Learn more.]

NC Probate Forms

Lady filing out papers

In North Carolina, probate begins with the filing of Form AOC-E-201, “Application For Probate and Letters”, with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county in which the decedent was domiciled (residing) at the time of the decedent’s death.

[You can find some of the most used forms here: North Carolina Probate Forms]

The Clerk of Superior Court generally acts as the equivalent of a “probate judge” to supervise the probate.

Form AOC-E-201 is generally filed by the person applying to be appointed as the executor and form AOC-E202 for the person applying to be an administrator (Both are also known as the “personal representative”) of the decedent’s estate.

Form AOC-E-201 requests various information, including the decedent's name, address, county of domicile, date of death, place of death. The name and address of the person applying to be appointed as the personal representative, the names of the persons entitled to share in the decedent’s estate (and their mailing addresses, ages, and relationships to the decedent), and a preliminary inventory of the decedent’s assets.

With Form AOC-E-201, the following also should be filed with the applicable Clerk of Superior Court:

· The decedent’s original valid Will and amendments, if any. For North Carolina probate purposes, a valid Will generally is the latest Will (including any amendments) signed by the decedent and attested by at least two competent witnesses;

· A certified copy of the death certificate for the decedent or other evidence of the death of the decedent;

· Form AOC-E-650, “Estates Action Cover Sheet”. Form AOC-E-650 (which serves as the first page of any probate filing) includes information about the decedent, the personal representative, and all persons entitled to share in the decedent’s estate;

· Form AOC-E-400, “Oath/Affirmation”. Form AOC-E-400 requires the personal representative to make an oath to faithfully and honestly carry out the personal representative’s duties;

· Form AOC-E-405, “Notice to Beneficiary”. Form AOC-E-405 (which is generally prepared by the personal representative and mailed out by the Clerk of Superior Court) provides notice to beneficiaries that they are beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate;

· If the personal representative is not a North Carolina resident, Form AOC-E-500, “Appointment of Resident Process Agent”, also must be filed. Form AOC-E-500 appoints a North Carolina resident agent to receive service of process;

Is a bond required?

Wooden blocks with letters that spells out bonds

If the personal representative live outside of North Carolina they must post a bond. Residents of North Carolina generally are not required to post a bond, unless the decedent’s Will expressly states otherwise.

If the personal representative is a non-resident of North Carolina they can appoint a North Carolina resident process agent to oversee the decedent's estate.

Is there a probate fee in North Carolina?

Person holding hundred dollar bills

Probate filing costs, generally equal to $120.00 to start the filing process. As of 2020, the fee sits at 40 cents for every $100 worth of assets, with a maximum possible amount capped at $6,000. Those numbers may change over time as court fees for probate are periodically updated, however.

What happens after filing for probate?

If all items are properly filed, the Clerk of Superior Court will issue “Certificate of Probate” and “Order Authorizing Issuance of Letters”. The “Certificate of Probate” validates the decedent’s Will, if any, for probate. The “Order Authorizing Issuance of Letters” appoints the personal representative to manage the decedent’s estate; it is the basis for the issuance of “Letters” to the personal representative, which stands as evidence and gives authority to the personal representative to manage the decedent’s estate.

Once appointed by the Clerk of Superior Court, the personal representative must perform various work in connection with the decedent’s estate.

The role of the personal representative

lady on the telephone writing down notes

The personal representative must determine and collect the assets of the decedent. If these assets are producing an income stream, the personal representative will need to open an estate bank account to place the money in.

The personal representative must determine and pay the valid debts of the decedent. As part of this work, the personal representative is required to publish a notice of the probate in a local newspaper, once per week for four weeks. For North Carolina probate purposes, creditors will need to file a claim against the decedent’s estate within three months after the date of the first publication of the creditors’ notice.

As part of paying the valid debts of the decedent, the personal representative must file applicable Federal and state income tax returns and any applicable Federal estate return, and pay applicable Federal and state income tax liabilities and any applicable Federal estate tax liability. It is highly advised that you seek the help of an accountant or tax professional who is experienced in probate to help you figure out the amounts owed.

After all valid debts, including taxes, of the decedent have been paid, the personal representative must distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate.

After all assets of the decedent’s estate have been distributed, the personal representative must file a final accounting with the Clerk of Superior Court. The final accounting describes all transactions that the personal representative has completed on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

With the filing of the final accounting, the personal representative generally will request that the probate be closed.

How long will probate take?

lady with black sweater and gray hat on sitting at a table with coffee cup and book.

A typical probate in North Carolina will take approximately six months to a year to complete.

An experienced probate lawyer definitely can help probate an estate in North Carolina. However, there is no requirement that a lawyer be used, and, except in complex probate situations or where there is adverse litigation, it may not be necessary to retain a lawyer.

Hopefully, by following the discussion in this article, you are now better prepared to file probate in North Carolina without a lawyer.

How North Carolina Probate Solutions Can Help.

If you want to avoid expensive attorney fees but you are feeling uncertain about filing probate on your own we can help you to get started.

  • We will first listen to your situation

  • We will show you the forms you need to submit to the clerk of court

  • We will provide assistance in filling out the forms

  • We provide you a probate timeline. We will go over it with you to help you better understand where you are in the process and what to expect next.

  • If you live outside of the state of North Carolina and do not have someone in the state to serve as your resident process agent we can serve in that role for you.

  • We will help get the house prepared to be placed on the market

  • We will perform a market analysis so you will know the value of the home and how to correctly price it.

  • We partner with clean-out services, estate sale companies, junk removal companies that can get the house clean and ready to sell

  • You can chose which option is best for you, whether it's a quick cash sale or listing it on the market for the highest price possible.

We will do our best to make this process a smooth process for you. If for some reason your situation is too complex we will be honest and tell you that in your case it is best to seek the assistance of an attorney.

Going through probate can be a stressful task, however we are here to help remove some of that stress from you. Speak with me, just to see if I can help you. You are not under any obligations to use my services, if you do not feel I am a good fit for you.

Please feel free to give me a call 252-902-9006. I may be on the line with another customer when you call so if I do not answer please leave a message and I promise to return your call.

Denise Harper Davis Certified Probate Real Estate Agent

Denise Harper Davis

Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist

Licensed Realtor


* NOTE: North Carolina Probate Solutions and the author of this article is not a licensed attorney or CPA. This post should not be considered legal or tax advice. Always consult an estate attorney or tax professional when needing legal answers and legal advice.

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