Estates

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Our Estates Division is designed to assist you in handling probate matters, including settlement and administration of a decedent’s estate, incompetent’s estates, probate of wills, administration of small estates, spouse’s year’s allowance, inventories/accountings, and other estate matters. 

The Deputy Clerk in charge of the Estate Division is Linda Spangler. Her direct line is 252.475.5234. No appointments are required, however since we operate on a first come, first serve basis having an appointment is advisable.  Appointments may be scheduled Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30-11:00 am and 1:00-4:00 pm.  Estate filings that do not necessitate a meeting may be dropped off during all regular business hours. Please contact Mrs. Spangler before coming to the courthouse so you can ensure you have all of the necessary information. Please be advised that while the Clerk's office can provide forms to you, we cannot practice law or give legal advice. This means the Clerk’s office cannot help you in filling out forms which may be required. For assistance, you should contact competent legal counsel. 

Administration of Decedent’s Estate

In North Carolina, the Clerk of Superior Court serves as the ex-officio Judge of Probate Court. The Clerk determines the validity of any presented Wills and any other matters related to the probate of an estate. 

The purpose of probate is to distribute a person's estate after his or her death. When a person dies, with or without a valid Will, the person's probate assets and property must first be used to satisfy debts. After all debts are paid, the remaining probate assets and property are distributed among persons named in the Will or, if the person died without a Will, distributed among the family members specified by North Carolina law. 

Is probate necessary? If the Will leaves real property to a beneficiary, the Will needs to be probated. A certified copy of the Will also needs to be filed in every county where the decedent owed real property. If the person who died did not have any property to transfer, probate may not be necessary. However, the deceased person’s survivors may decide to open a probate estate if other factors necessitate it. 

Does all property go through probate when a person dies? No. The term "probate estate" refers to any property subject to the authority of the Clerk of Superior Court. Assets distributed outside the probate process are part of a person's “non-probate estate.” 

If a loved one has passed away in Dare County and/or owned real property situated within Dare County, our clerk’s office is the proper forum for estate administration. When you are preparing to come meet with our Estates Division, please take a moment to gather some Necessary Documents (see below) before your meeting. For further information, please review the Estate Pamphlet and the Frequently Asked Questions section. 

Estate Procedure

The general process of estate administration starts with an application to have a representative appointed by the Estates Division. This representative will be in charge of the administration of the decedent’s estate. The Personal Representative must take a fiduciary oath and may have to post a bond to protect the estate assets from fraud or improper administration. A 90-day inventory of assets and annual accountings must also be timely filed with the Clerk’s office showing all receipts and disbursements of the estate (REQUIRED BY LAW). These accountings are audited by the Estates Division. Receipts, canceled checks, statements, and payment vouchers must also be submitted in support of the accountings for audit. Forms may be located on the N.C. Courts website

Estate administration is often a complex process, requiring the completion of many procedures within a required time frame; this complexity is frequently compounded by the personal loss from a loved one's passing. Despite such difficulties, the administrator has a fiduciary duty to administer the estate competently, accurately, and fairly. Notably, each estate is unique and there may be several different options in which to approach it. Our office can inform you of procedure related to your administration, however, we are prohibited by law from giving legal advice. As a fiduciary, you have a legal duty to administer the estate properly. Consequently, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney should you require legal advice. 

Necessary Documents to Open an Estate

 To administer a decedent’s estate, it will be helpful to bring or have knowledge of the following items: 

  1. Original Last Will and Testament, if applicable (a copy will not be accepted)
  2. If decedent had a Last Will and Testament, please provide the names and addresses of the beneficiaries under the Will. If there is no Will, you may need the names and addresses of the decedent’s next of kin.
  3. Copy of death certificate
  4. Social Security number of decedent
  5. Copy of funeral bill and receipt if it has been paid
  6. Copy of other bills or debts owed
  7. Title and/or registration to any vehicles, mobile homes, mileage, and vehicle identification numbers (VINS) (values, names listed on title, and title)
  8. Lien amounts on any personal property
  9. Bank account information for all accounts (Bank, Account No., Amount in Account, Signature Card to determine if the account was POD or with right of survivorship)
  10. Stocks and Bonds, values at time of death (number of shares, names on stock certificates and the value at time of death)
  11. Value of Cash on hand
  12. Value of insurance policies, IRA’s, investment accounts (how titled)
  13. Value of household furnishings, collections, and the like
  14. Interest in businesses/partnerships
  15. Value and location of real estate (names listed on deeds)
    Bring recent property tax statement to verify tax value
    Also bring mortgage balance information and lien amounts on any real estate
  16. Any potential claim for wrongful death
  17. Value of all other assets the decedent may have owned

Tip: Tax statements are often useful in determining the valuation of vehicles, trailers, mobile homes, and the like. 

Filing Fees for Estates

Costs to File

  • Regular Administration or Collection by Affidavit: $120.00
  • Probate without Qualification: $30.00
  • Filing Will: $1.00 for 1st page/$0.25 for each additional page
  • Indexing Will Probated in another County or State: 1st page $6.00/$0.25 for each additional page
  • Year’s Allowance: $8.00 and copy of marriage license
  • Clerk’s Estate: $10.00

Costs for an Open Estate

90-Day Inventory: $0.40 per $100.00 of Personal Property ($15.00 Minimum) 

Annual or Final Accounting: $0.40 per $100.00 on new estate assets ($15.00 Minimum) 

For information about health care powers of attorney and living wills (health care directives) please visit theSecretary of State website.