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The Plain English Attorney

It’s kind of a deceptive question because there are a lot of assets that technically avoid probate, but there is so much paperwork involved to prove to the court that they are not in probate, that they might as well be.

Examples of assets that avoid probate, but still require paperwork with the court:

Joint accounts with the right of survivorship. Yes, these accounts avoid probate. Yes, they’re not part of what the court bases probate fees on. However, they’re not something that the executor or administrator of the estate can grab ahold of and sell and use unless there are more debts that need to be paid than there are assets in probate. But just because it technically isn’t part of probate doesn’t mean there isn’t paperwork involved.

In North Carolina, a joint account with the right of survivorship needs to have copies of the paperwork setting up the account as well as information on the joint owner. That documentation needs to be filed, along with additional paperwork, to the court.

Life insurance and other accounts that have a beneficiary designation. The court also needs documentation showing the existence of these accounts, their beneficiaries, and where it goes to. You must again gather information and send it to the court to prove that any of these accounts weren’t in probate.

What exactly – and technically – is in probate?

It’s accounts and assets titled in the name of the deceased person. Because really, in the end, that’s all that probate is – a big, massive, complicated and time-consuming process to retitle assets from the deceased person’s name into the names of the proper beneficiaries. But, really, there is lot more paperwork involved in order to satisfy the probate court and have everything wrapped up.

If you would like more information about probate in North Carolina, you can access our website at There’s a place on the website where North Carolina residents can sign up to receive a complimentary copy of my book, Six Steps to Take When Someone Passes On. You are also welcome to call our office at (919) 844-7993.

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