North Carolina Small Estates Law

Wills and Estates – Small Estates – North Carolina

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Small Estates General Summary: Small Estate laws were enacted in order to enable heirs to obtain property of the deceased without probate, or with shortened probate proceedings, provided certain conditions are met. Small estates can be administered with less time and cost. If the deceased had conveyed most property to a trust but there remains some property, small estate laws may also be available. Small Estate procedures may generally be used regardless of whether there was a Will. In general, the two forms of small estate procedures are recognized:
1. Small Estate Affidavit -Some States allow an affidavit to be executed by the spouse and/or heirs of the deceased and present the affidavit to the holder of property such as a bank to obtain property of the deceased. Other states require that the affidavit be filed with the Court. The main requirement before you may use an affidavit is that the value of the personal and/or real property of the estate not exceed a certain value.

2. Summary Administration -Some states allow a Summary administration. Some States recognize both the Small Estate affidavit and Summary Administration, basing the requirement of which one to use on the value of the estate. Example: If the estate value is 10,000 or less an affidavit is allowed but if the value is between 10,000 to 20,000 a summary administration is allowed.

North Carolina Summary:
Under North Carolina statute, where as estate is valued at less than $20,000 ($30,000 if the affiant is a spouse and sole heir), an interested party may, thirty (30) days after the death of the decedent, issue a small estate affidavit to collect any debts owed to the decedent. Prior to the recovery of any assets of the decedent, a copy of the affidavit shall be filed in the office of the clerk of superior court of the county where the decedent had his domicile at the time of his death.

North Carolina Requirements:
North Carolina requirements are set forth in the statutes below.

ARTICLE 25. Small Estates.

§ 28A-25-1.1. Collection of property by affidavit when decedent dies testate.

(a) When a decedent dies testate leaving personal property, less liens and encumbrances thereon, not exceeding twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) in value, at any time after 30 days from the date of death, any person indebted to the decedent or having possession of tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock or chose in action belonging to the decedent shall make payment of the indebtedness or deliver the tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock or chose in action to a person claiming to be the public administrator appointed pursuant to G.S. 28A-12-1, a person named or designated as executor in the will, devisee, heir or creditor, of the decedent, not disqualified under G.S. 28A-4-2, upon being presented a certified copy of an affidavit filed in accordance with subsection (b) and made by or on behalf of the heir, the person named or designated as executor in the will of the decedent, the creditor, the public administrator, or the devisee, stating:

(1) The name and address of the affiant and the fact that the affiant is the public administrator, a person named or designated as executor in the will, devisee, heir or creditor, of the decedent;

(2) The name of the decedent and the decedent’s residence at time of death;

(3) The date and place of death of the decedent;

(4) That 30 days have elapsed since the death of the decedent;

(5) That the decedent died testate leaving personal property, less liens and encumbrances thereon, not exceeding twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) in value;

(6) That the decedent’s will has been admitted to probate in the court of the proper county and a duly certified copy of the will has been recorded in each county in which is located any real property owned by the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death;

(7) That a certified copy of the decedent’s will is attached to the affidavit;

(8) That no application or petition for appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction;

(9) The names and addresses of those persons who are entitled, under the provisions of the will, or if applicable, of the Intestate Succession Act, to the property of the decedent; and their relationship, if any, to the decedent; and

(10) A description sufficient to identify each tract of real property owned by the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death.

In those cases in which the affiant is the surviving spouse, is entitled to all of the property of the decedent, and is not disqualified under G.S. 28A-4-2, the property described in this subsection that may be collected pursuant to this section may exceed twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) in value but shall not exceed thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) in value, after reduction for any spousal allowance paid to the surviving spouse pursuant to G.S. 30-15. In such cases, the affidavit shall state: (i) the name and address of the affiant and the fact that the affiant is the surviving spouse and is entitled, under the provisions of the decedent’s will, or if applicable, of the Intestate Succession Act, to all of the property of the decedent; (ii) that the decedent died testate leaving personal property, less liens and encumbrances thereon, not exceeding thirty thousand dollars ($30,000); and (iii) the information required under subdivisions (2), (3), (4), (6), (7), (8), and (10) of this subsection.

(b) Prior to the recovery of any assets of the decedent, a copy of the affidavit described in subsection (a) shall be filed in the office of the clerk of superior court of the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of death. The affidavit shall be filed by the clerk upon payment of the fee provided in G.S. 7A-307, shall be indexed in the index to estates, and a copy shall be mailed by the clerk to the persons shown in the affidavit as entitled to the property.

(c) The presentation of an affidavit as provided in subsection (a) shall be sufficient to require the transfer to the affiant or the affiant’s designee of the title and license to a motor vehicle registered in the name of the decedent owner; the ownership rights of a savings account or checking account in a bank in the name of the decedent owner; the ownership rights of a savings account or share certificate in a credit union, building and loan association, or savings and loan association in the name of the decedent owner; the ownership rights in any stock or security registered on the books of a corporation in the name of a decedent owner; or any other property or contract right owned by decedent at the time of the decedent’s death. (1985, c. 651, s. 2; 1987, c. 670, s. 1; 1989, c. 407, s. 2; 1995, c. 262, s. 2; 2009-175, s. 2; 2011-344, s. 4; 2012-18, s. 3.9.)

§ 28A-25-1. Collection of property by affidavit when decedent dies intestate.

(a) When a decedent dies intestate leaving personal property, less liens and encumbrances thereon, not exceeding twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) in value, at any time after 30 days from the date of death, any person indebted to the decedent or having possession of tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock or chose in action belonging to the decedent shall make payment of the indebtedness or deliver the tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock or chose in action to a person claiming to be the public administrator appointed pursuant to G.S. 28A-12-1, or an heir or creditor of the decedent, not disqualified under G.S. 28A-4-2, upon being presented a certified copy of an affidavit filed in accordance with subsection (b) and made by or on behalf of the heir or creditor or the public administrator stating:

(1) The name and address of the affiant and the fact that the affiant is the public administrator or an heir or creditor of the decedent;

(2) The name of the decedent and the decedent’s residence at time of death;

(3) The date and place of death of the decedent;

(4) That 30 days have elapsed since the death of the decedent;

(5) That the value of all the personal property owned by the estate of the decedent, less liens and encumbrances thereon, does not exceed twenty thousand dollars ($20,000);

(6) That no application or petition for appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction;

(7) The names and addresses of those persons who are entitled, under the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act, to the personal property of the decedent and their relationship, if any, to the decedent; and

(8) A description sufficient to identify each tract of real property owned by the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death.

In those cases in which the affiant is the surviving spouse and sole heir of the decedent, not disqualified under G.S. 28A-4-2, the property described in this subsection that may be collected pursuant to this section may exceed twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) in value but shall not exceed thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) in value, after reduction for any spousal allowance paid to the surviving spouse pursuant to G.S. 30-15. In such cases, the affidavit shall state: (i) the name and address of the affiant and the fact that the affiant is the surviving spouse and is entitled, under the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act, to all of the property of the decedent; (ii) that the value of all of the personal property owned by the estate of the decedent, less liens and encumbrances thereon, does not exceed thirty thousand dollars ($30,000); and (iii) the information required under subdivisions (2), (3), (4), (6), and (8) of this subsection.

(b) Prior to the recovery of any assets of the decedent, a copy of the affidavit described in subsection (a) shall be filed in the office of the clerk of superior court of the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of death. The affidavit shall be filed by the clerk upon payment of the fee provided in G.S. 7A-307, shall be indexed in the index to estates, and a copy thereof shall be mailed by the clerk to the persons shown in the affidavit as entitled to the personal property.

(c) The presentation of an affidavit as provided in subsection (a) shall be sufficient to require the transfer to the affiant or the affiant’s designee of the title and license to a motor vehicle registered in the name of the decedent owner; the ownership rights of a savings account or checking account in a bank in the name of the decedent owner; the ownership rights of a savings account or share certificate in a credit union, building and loan association, or savings and loan association in the name of the decedent owner; the ownership rights in any stock or security registered on the books of a corporation in the name of a decedent owner; or any other property or contract right owned by decedent at the time of the decedent’s death. (1973, c. 1329, s. 3; 1975, c. 300, s. 9; 1983, c. 65, s. 1; c. 713, s. 21; 1985, c. 651, s. 1; 1989, c. 407, s. 1; 1995, c. 262, s. 1; 2009-175, s. 1; 2011-344, s. 4.)

§ 28A-25-2. Effect of affidavit.

The person paying, delivering, transferring or issuing personal property or the evidence thereof pursuant to an affidavit meeting the requirements of G.S. 28A-25-1(a) or G.S. 28A-25-1.1(a) is discharged and released to the same extent as if the person dealt with a duly qualified personal representative of the decedent. The person is not required to see to the application of the personal property or evidence thereof or to inquire into the truth of any statement in the affidavit. If any person to whom an affidavit is delivered refuses to pay, deliver, transfer, or issue any personal property or evidence thereof, it may be recovered or its payment, delivery, transfer, or issuance compelled upon proof of their right in an action brought for that purpose by or on behalf of the persons entitled thereto. The court costs and attorney’s fee incident to the action shall be taxed against the person whose refusal to comply with the provisions of G.S. 28A-25-1(a) or G.S. 28A-25-1.1(a) made the action necessary. The heir or creditor to whom payment, delivery, transfer or issuance is made is answerable and accountable therefor to any duly qualified personal representative or collector of the decedent’s estate or to any other person having an interest in the estate. (1973, c. 1329, s. 3; 1985, c. 651, s. 3; 1987, c. 670, s. 2; 2011-344, s. 4.)

§ 28A-25-3. Disbursement and distribution of property collected by affidavit.

(a) If there has been no personal representative or collector appointed by the clerk of superior court, the affiant who has collected personal property of the decedent by affidavit pursuant to G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1 shall:

(1) Disburse and distribute the same in the following order:

a. To the payment of the surviving spouse’s year’s allowance and the children’s year’s allowance assigned in accordance with G.S. 30-15 through G.S. 30-33;

b. To the payment of the debts and claims against the estate of the decedent in the order of priority set forth in G.S. 28A-19-6, or to the reimbursement of any person who has already made payment thereof;

c. To the distribution of the remainder of the personal property to the persons entitled thereto under the provisions of the will or of the Intestate Succession Act; and

(2) File an affidavit with the clerk of superior court that the affiant has collected the personal property of the decedent and the manner in which the affiant has disbursed and distributed the same. This final affidavit shall be filed within 90 days of the date of filing of the qualifying affidavit provided for in G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1. If the affiant cannot file the final affidavit within 90 days, the affiant shall file a report with the clerk within that time period stating the affiant’s reasons. Upon determining that the affiant has good reason not to file the final affidavit within 90 days, the clerk may extend the time for filing up to one year from the date of filing the qualifying affidavit.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed as changing the rule of G.S. 28A-15-1 and G.S. 28A-15-5 rendering both real and personal property, without preference or priority, available for the discharge of debts and other claims against the estate of the decedent. If it appears that it may be in the best interest of the estate to sell, lease, or mortgage any real property to obtain money for the payment of debts or other claims against the decedent’s estate, the affiant shall petition the clerk of superior court for the appointment of a personal representative to conclude the administration of the decedent’s estate pursuant to G.S. 28A-25-5. (1973, c. 1329, s. 3; 1983, c. 711, s. 1; 1985, c. 651, s. 4; 1987, c. 670, s. 3; 1989, c. 407, s. 3; 2011-344, s. 4.)

§ 28A-25-4. Clerk may compel compliance.

If any affiant who has collected personal property of the decedent by affidavit pursuant to G.S. 28A-25-1 or G.S. 28A-25-1.1 shall fail to make distribution or file affidavit as required by G.S. 28A-25-3, the clerk of superior court may, upon motion of the clerk of superior court or at the request of any interested person, issue an attachment against the affiant for a contempt and commit the affiant until the affiant makes proper distribution and files the affidavit. In addition to or in lieu of filing this attachment, the clerk may require the affiant to post a bond conditioned as provided in G.S. 28A-8-2. (1973, c. 1329, s. 3; 1983, c. 711, s. 2; 1985, c. 651, s. 5; 1987, c. 670, s. 4; 1989, c. 407, s. 4; 2011-344, s. 4.)

§ 28A-25-5. Subsequently appointed personal representative or collector.

Nothing in this Article shall preclude any interested person, including the affiant, from petitioning the clerk of superior court for the appointment of a personal representative or collector to conclude the administration of the decedent’s estate. If such is done, the affiant who has been collecting personal property by affidavit shall cease to do so, shall deliver all assets in the affiant’s possession to the personal representative, and shall render a proper accounting to the personal representative or collector. A copy of the accounting shall also be filed with the clerk having jurisdiction over the personal representative or collector. (1973, c. 1329, s. 3; 1975, c. 300, s. 10; 1985, c. 651, s. 6; 1987, c. 670, s. 5; 2011-344, s. 4.)

§ 28A-25-6. Payment to clerk of money owed decedent.

(a) As an alternative to the small estate settlement procedures of this Article, any person indebted to a decedent may satisfy such indebtedness by paying the amount of the debt to the clerk of the superior court of the county of the domicile of the decedent:

(1) If no administrator has been appointed, and

(2) If the amount owed by such person does not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), and

(3) If the sum tendered to the clerk would not make the aggregate sum which has come into the clerk’s hands belonging to the decedent exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000).

(b) Such payments may not be made to the clerk if the total amount paid or tendered with respect to any one decedent would exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), even though disbursements have been made so that the aggregate amount in the clerk’s hands at any one time would not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000).

(c) If the sum tendered pursuant to this section would make the aggregate sum coming into the clerk’s hands with respect to any one decedent exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) the clerk shall appoint an administrator, or the sum may be administered under the preceding sections of this Article.

(d) If it appears to the clerk after making a preliminary survey that disbursements pursuant to this section would not exhaust funds received pursuant to this section, the clerk may, in the clerk’s discretion, appoint an administrator, or the funds may be administered under the preceding sections of this Article.

(e) The receipt from the clerk of the superior court of a payment purporting to be made pursuant to this section is a full release to the debtor for the payment so made.

(f) If no administrator has been appointed, the clerk of superior court shall disburse the money received under this section for the following purposes and in the following order:

(1) To pay the surviving spouse’s year’s allowance and children’s year’s allowance assigned in accordance with law;

(2), (3) Repealed by Session Laws 1981, c. 383, s. 3.

(4) All other claims shall be disbursed according to the order set out in G.S. 28A-19-6.

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subsection, the clerk shall pay, out of funds provided the deceased pursuant to G.S. 111-18 and Part 3 of Article 2 of Chapter 108A of the General Statutes of North Carolina, any lawful claims for care provided by an adult care home to the deceased, incurred not more than 90 days prior to the deceased’s death. After the death of a spouse who died intestate and after the disbursements have been made in accordance with this subsection, the balance in the clerk’s hands belonging to the estate of the decedent shall be paid to the surviving spouse, and if there is no surviving spouse, the clerk shall pay it to the heirs in proportion to their respective interests.

(g) The clerk shall not be required to publish notice to creditors.

(h) Whenever an administrator is appointed after a clerk of superior court has received any money pursuant to this section, the clerk shall pay to the administrator all funds which have not been disbursed. The clerk shall receive no commissions for payments made to the administrator, and the administrator shall receive no commissions for receiving such payments.

(1921, c. 93; Ex. Sess. 1921, c. 65; C.S., s. 65(a); Ex. Sess. 1924, cc. 15, 58; 1927, c. 7; 1929, cc. 63, 71, 121; 1931, c. 21; 1933, cc. 16, 94; 1935, cc. 69, 96, 367; 1937, cc. 13, 31, 55, 121, 336, 377; 1939, cc. 383, 384; 1941, c. 176; 1943, cc. 24, 114, 138, 560; 1945, cc. 152, 178, 555; 1947, cc. 203, 237; 1949, cc. 17, 81, 691, 762; 1951, c. 380, s. 1; 1955, c. 1246, s. 103; 1957, c. 491; 1959, c. 795, ss. 1-4; 1965, c. 576, s. 1; 1973, c. 23; c. 1329, s. 1; 1975, c. 344; 1979, c. 163; c. 762, s. 1; 1981, c. 383, s. 3; 1983, c. 65, s. 2; 1987, c. 282, s. 6; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1015, s. 1; 1995, c. 535, s. 2; 2011-344, s. 4.)

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Inside North Carolina Small Estates Law