What To Do When A Loved One Dies – Estate Administration Processes in NC

Last Will & Estate AdministrationAs the years go by, dealing with the death of a loved one is an unfortunate experience that we all face at some point. Whether it’s a parent, spouse, or sibling, these are always trying and emotional times. The last thing we want to deal with is the legalities involved following our loved one’s passing, but it is nonetheless an important part of what happens when someone dies.

“What do you do when someone dies?”

Administering an estate fulfills the final wishes of the deceased, as well as any outstanding financial obligations, such as taxes, asset distribution, or debt. To start the process of estate administration, there are a steps that you must follow and documents to procure. Different steps are taken if the decedent left a will, versus if they died without a will.

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So, the first question to be answered is whether or not the person had a will, trust, or any other estate plan in place.

What Do You Do When Someone With a Will Dies?

Testate Estate

If there was a will (a testate estate), the North Carolina General Statutes provide a definite set of rules that must be followed.

Documents you will need:

A properly drafted Last Will and Testament will identify an Executor who is legally responsible for making sure that the will and the estate are properly handled.

In these kinds of estates, the Executor must locate the original Last Will and Testament. If the original Last Will and Testament document is lost, a copy may be able to be used, but the original is generally required.

The Executor named in the will then fills out an Application For Probate And Letters and takes these along with an original death certificate to the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death.

Upon submission of satisfactory documents, the Clerk of Superior Court will issue to the Executor a document known as Letters of Testamentary. These Letters are required in order that the Executor can begin to address the affairs of the deceased person and administer the estate.

This is the beginning of a process where the Executor is required to follow the laws and ultimately handle the estate of the deceased according to the provisions of the will.

What do you do when someone dies without a will?

Intestate Estate

In situations where the person died and did not have a will, the estate is administered through intestate succession.

Documents You Will Need:

In this situation, you must fill out an Application For Letters Of Administration and apply to the Clerk of Superior Court for a document known as Letters of Administration. The statutes stipulate the priority of people who are qualified to apply. Refer to “Qualification as Personal Representative” in the Estate Procedures handout to see who qualifies.

When an Application for Letters of Administration and a death certificate are submitted to the Clerk of Superior Court, the Administrator is then empowered and obligated to follow the laws and administer the estate of the deceased in a manner similar to an Executor, but instead of following a will, the Administrator handles the estate according to the law of intestate succession.

What if the Estate Isn’t Very Large?

Small Estate Administration

Some estates with a value of less than $20,000 can be handled by way of small estate administration. In these instances, an affidavit is submitted by a Collector to deal with the assets and debts of the deceased.

Helpful Estate Procedures Resources

Terms & definitions:

Decedent The person who has died.

Decedent has a will

Decedent does not have a will

Testate The decedent has died testate if they have a will in place.Executor Named in the decedent’s will, the Executor (executor of a will) is responsible for carrying out the obligations of the deceased person.

Letters of Testamentary Official documents provided by the Clerk of Superior Court that grant the Executor the authority to carry out their responsibilities as executor of a will.

Application For Probate And LettersForm submitted by the Executor to apply for the Letters.

Intestate The decedent has died intestate if they do not have a will.Administrator Appointed by the court in cases where there is no will, the Administrator (administrator of the estate) is responsible for carrying out the obligations of the decedent.

Letters of AdministrationOfficial documents provided by the Clerk of Superior Court that grant the Administrator authority to carry out their responsibilities as administrator of an estate.

Application For Letters Of AdministrationForm submitted by the Administrator to apply for the Letters.

Forms & Resources:


Speak to an Experienced Estate Administration Attorney

If you are the one responsible for handling the deceased’s estate, having access to quality legal services for estate administration is invaluable. We serve areas including Raleigh, Apex, Wake Forest, Cary, and surrounding areas.

Please fill out the form below or call The Doyle Law Offices today at (919) 228-4487 and let us help you with Estate Administration.

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