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Our Estate & Trust Administration Services

Serving as the Personal Representative or Trustee on behalf of a deceased friend or family member can be a heavy load. We are here to help shoulder the burden and to assist you with your fiduciary duties. As the Personal Representative or Trustee, you have a responsibility to the heirs of the estate or the beneficiaries of the trust. If you fail to uphold your duties or take action in the wrong sequence (for example, pay off creditors in the wrong order), then you can be held personally liable. The stakes are high, but we are here to make sure your actions are beyond reproach!

Trust Administration

Many people name a trusted family member or friend as their Trustee. Often, the designated Trustee has no financial, investment, asset-management, or legal background. Yet, taking on the Trustee role is a big responsibility. Since the Trustee is responsible to the beneficiaries for every decision and every action or inaction with respect to the trust, the Trustee can be sued for mismanaging trust assets, failing to invest assets prudently, not acting with reasonable skill, care, and caution, not properly communicating with beneficiaries, not following the terms of the trust, not preparing proper accountings, and more.


These risks are why it is advisable—at a minimum—to have an attorney as a "back-stop" if you are serving as a Trustee. Going it alone is dangerous and puts your family and your assets at risk. We can serve as legal advisors to the Trustee. We can also step into the Trustee role and take all of the Trustee duties off your shoulders. 


Whether you are looking only for advice or wanting a more involved partner, we are here to serve! 

Estate Administration

In the absence of a trust, the estate is likely going to end up before the probate court in some way, shape, or fashion. There are several different types of estate administration, and each type has its own set of rules and requirements. If you start down the wrong path or file in the wrong county, you will be forced to start over again. Think of the children's game "Chutes and Ladders." You can be 3 blocks from the finish line, yet after one tiny misstep, you can suddenly find yourself sliding back down the board and having to climb your way back up again. The same is true with probate.

You Don't Have to Do It Alone!

We want to help you navigate these uncharted waters. Let our experience and expertise work for you.

Complete our Worksheet as best you can. We will help you figure out the rest!

Think You Want to Give Probate a Try?

The most important decision you have to make at the start of the case is which "door" to the courthouse you are going to use. Here's a snapshot of the most common probate "doors":

Estate Administration: The Spousal Allowance

The Spousal Allowance works great when the only heir to the estate is the surviving spouse and the total value of assets to be transferred to the surviving spouse are valued at $60,000 or less. Even if the estate is larger, the spousal allowance process is an easy way to get the first $60,000 of assets into the surviving spouse's hands quickly.


The award of a spousal allowance can be contemporaneous with the court filing requesting the allowance, which makes it the quickest probate path we have in NC. If there are not enough identifiable assets to consume the full $60,000 allowance, then the spouse will be awarded a deficiency judgment that can be used to claim additional assets as they are discovered.

This proceeding can only be used to transfer personal property, not real estate. 

Estate Administration: Full Probate

Most of the "quick" doors to probate work well when there are limited assets or if the surviving spouse is the sole heir. However, most estates we handle end up requiring full-blown probate because the assets are substantial or there are multiple heirs. 

The NC Estate Administration Manual is over 1700 pages of instructions of how to properly administer a full-blown probate matter. So, needless to say, this is a tedious, complicated, and time-consuming process.

Stay tuned for more about what to expect going through full probate!

Estate Administration: The Small Estate (Collection by Affidavit)

A "small estate" in North Carolina is one with probate assets valued at less than $20,000. If the estate qualifies as a small estate, then no Executor is needed. Instead, the probate process is overseen by a Collector whose job is to "collect" the assets and to transfer them to the appropriate heirs.


If you go through the small estate "door," it is expected that the entire proceeding (titled a Collection by Affidavit) will be resolved in three months or less. Although the small estate door does not get you out of the courthouse quite as quick as using the spousal allowance, in the probate world, three months is still considered a fast-track probate.

This proceeding can only be used to transfer personal property, not real estate.

Other Potential "Doors" to Probate

There are more estate administration options available aside from the three we've already discussed. These include an Administration by Clerk (if assets total less than $5000), the Child Allowance (similar to the spousal allowance but limited to $5,000 per minor child), and a Summary Administration (transfers all assets to surviving spouse without former probate but forces the spouse to also accept all of the estate's liabilities). There's also Ancillary Administrations, Administrations without the Qualification of a Personal Representative, and Administrations with a Limited Personal Representative (typically used if the only asset in the estate is real estate). 

The options are seemingly endless. That's why it is so important to choose the right door based on the specific needs and circumstances of the estate and the heirs. 

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