You may have been told by a Bank that you need Letters in order to access the account of a loved one. Probate is the legal process that is required to obtain these Letters and only the Clerk of Court can issue these…not an attorney. A portion of the following list is provided to you directly from the North Carolina Estate Settlement Guide. This is a general checklist of what the Executor’s responsibilities are within the first month of being appointed. This is not to be considered legal advise and or a complete checklist of what is required of an Executor or Administrator of someone’s Estate. It is provided as a very basic over view.
The process tends to be overwhelming and very time consuming. If you lost a loved one and need assistance navigating the Court process of settling the estate, we can help you.
1. Complete all documentation necessary to become the personal representative (Petition for Letters and Oath at a minimum)
2. Gather information on the decedent and the decedent’s probate assets (this is required for the Petition)
3. Make an appointment with the probate clerk (not always necessary)
4. Meet with the probate clerk (again, not always necessary)
5. Inventory Safe Deposit boxes (You may need a Court Order to open this if you are trying to do it before the Letters are issued by the Clerk)
6. Gather and protect estate property
7. retain experts (CPA’s, Attorneys, Financial Planners, for example)
8. determine value of non-probate assets (probably won’t get far with this until you have the Letters issued from the Clerk)
9. investigate potential wrongful death claims (you will have to disclose whether there is a wrongful death claim)
10. obtain tax identification number (you will need this before you open an Estate Account)
11. open estate bank account (using the tax identification number as the “social security number” so to speak of the Estate Account)
12. pay the year’s allowance (if the surviving spouse requires it)
13. activate or terminate government benefits
14. obtain prior tax returns
15. obtain death certificates (the funeral home usually orders these for the family when they burial arrangements are made. I would order at least 10)
16. publish notice to creditors (cannot do this until the Letters have been issued by the Clerk)
17. identify legal obligations of the decedent (creditors, etc.)
18. start going through decedent’s personal effects to determine where assets may be held and or any liabilities he or she has outstanding
19. keep very detailed records on any checks deposited into the Estate Account as well as any checks written from the account
20. Call an attorney if you get too overwhelmed with the process!