Catch Up with the Clerk – January 23, 2024

Hello Buncombe Bar! On this week’s edition of Catch Up with the Clerk, I will go over estates and probate. Our Estates Assistants are Scott Coates, Anna Cole, Tammy Gossett, and Amanda Wallen.

Scott joined the Clerk’s Office in 2015 and became an assistant in 2018. He enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, and kayaking. Anna started at the Clerk’s Office in 2011 and became an assistant in 2018. She enjoys spending time with her mom and daughter. Tammy joined the Clerk’s Office in 2005 and became and assistant in 2016. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren. Amanda started at the Clerk’s Office in 2012 in estates. She became head bookkeeper in 2021 and then an assistant in 2023. She has two dachshund mixes named Tobi and Jasper.

Estate administration is the legal process of collecting, settling, and distributing the property of a decedent’s estate. This process is partially guided by whether the decedent died testate (with a valid will) or intestate (without a will or without a valid will). Administration of a decedent’s estate may occur pursuant to a formal administration or an alternative to a formal administration. Not all decedents require estate administration. In formal (or “full”) estate administration, a personal representative (PR) or a collector is appointed by the clerk of superior court. Estate administration may also occur through some alternative to a formal administration, such as through collection by affidavit or through summary administration. If a decedent died without owning property, no administration is required.

The clerk of superior court has wide-ranging responsibilities related to the estates of decedents under North Carolina law. This includes both judicial and ministerial responsibilities. The clerk has long been North Carolina’s ex officio judge of probate and in that role has original jurisdiction to oversee the administration of a decedent’s estate. Clerks also perform ministerial acts in the administration of a decedent’s estate, including maintaining records, files, dockets, and indexes as prescribed by the AOC.

The clerk and assistant clerks may preside over hearings, enter orders, admit a will to probate, issue and revoke letters to a personal representative, audit and compel inventories and accounts, approve or deny attorney fees and commissions, and make other discretionary decisions. Assistant clerks are authorized to perform all the duties and functions of the office of the clerk. Any act of an assistant clerk is entitled to the same faith and credit as that of the clerk.

Deputy clerks are limited to ministerial acts in the administration of a decedent’s estate. A deputy clerk is authorized to perform any ministerial act that the clerk is authorized and empowered to perform. This includes certifying the existence and correctness of any record in the clerk’s office and taking the proofs and examinations of the witnesses touching the execution of a will. Deputy clerks may receive filings, open and establish estate files, microfilm documents, and index information into the electronic recordkeeping system.

A formal administration follows these steps: initial intake, probate and qualification, gathering and inventory of assets, payment of claims, distributions, and accounting, closing the estate. The clerk creates and maintains the estate file following the NC Rules of Recordkeeping.

I will continue to have drop-in hours every Monday from 11:30-1. If you would like to see me but are not available at that time, please email me at jean.m.christy2@nccourts.org or call/text me at 828-713-5289. I look forward to seeing you all March 1, when the Bar is hosting the “Practicing in Front of the Clerk” CLE at 12 p.m. in courtroom 2C.

Catch up with you next week!

Jean Marie Christy

 

*pictured from left to right are Scott Coates, Anna Cole, Tammy Gossett, and Amanda Wallen.