Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in North Carolina
My Mom just passed away in October. She lived in a senior living center and had no assets. She left a will but all her possessions were already dispersed prior to her death. I am the listed executor and I also have right of survivorship of her checking/saving accounts which have a total of $1800. I don't know what to do next. I have an appointment with the clerk of court of Wake County next week and I have been told that since she owned nothing there isn't anything to do. I do know she might owe money to the clinic at the facility where she resided. Thanks for any assistance with this.
1 Answer from Attorneys
If your mother had no assets - no house, no car, no money then there is nothing for you to do. You simply file the will. If the nursing home wants money, then they would file a claim with your mother's estate if there is one. If there is no estate, unless you agreed to be personally liable f or your mother's bills then there is nothing the nursing home can do.
Joint bank accounts are the property of the surviving person. Problem is that they can be reclaimed into the estate if there are no funds to pay for any claims. If there is some but not enough money, then claims are paid in order of priority as specfiied in the statute below. Things that are priority are funeral expenses (up to $3500) and payments to administer the estate. Medical expenses are lower in priority and it sounds like that the funds you have in t he bank account will be exhausted before you even reach the medical claims.'
NC has a simplified procedure to use for very small estates. It sounds like if probate is needed that you will be able to use that. But I think the clerk is right - there is no need for probate as your mother did not own anything.
§ 28A-19-6. Order of payment of claims.
(a) After payment of costs and expenses of administration, the claims against the estate
of a decedent must be paid in the following order:
First class. Claims which by law have a specific lien on property to an amount not
exceeding the value of such property.
Second class. Funeral expenses to the extent of three thousand five hundred dollars
($3,500). This limitation shall not include burial place or gravestone. The preferential limitation
herein granted shall be construed to be only a limit with respect to preference of payment and
shall not be construed to be a limitation on reasonable funeral expenses which may be incurred;
nor shall the preferential limitation of payment in the amount of three thousand five hundred
dollars ($3,500) be diminished by any Veterans Administration, social security or other federal
governmental benefits awarded to the estate of the decedent or to the decedent's beneficiaries.
Third class. Costs associated with gravestones and reasonable costs for the purchase of a
suitable burial place as provided in G.S. 28A-19-9 to the extent of one thousand five hundred
dollars ($1,500). The preferential limitation herein granted shall be construed to be only a limit
with respect to preference of payment and shall not be construed to be a limitation on
reasonable gravestone or burial place expenses which may be incurred; nor shall the
preferential limitation of payment in the amount of one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500)
be diminished by any Veterans Administration, social security or other federal governmental
benefits awarded to the estate of the decedent or to the decedent's beneficiaries.
Fourth class. All dues, taxes, and other claims with preference under the laws of the United
Fifth class. All dues, taxes, and other claims with preference under the laws of the State of
North Carolina and its subdivisions.
Sixth class. Judgments of any court of competent jurisdiction within the State, docketed and
in force, to the extent to which they are a lien on the property of the decedent at the decedent's
death. The Department of Health and Human Services is a sixth-class creditor for purposes of
determining the order of claims against the estate; provided, however, that judgments in favor
of other sixth-class creditors docketed and in force before the Department seeks recovery for
medical assistance shall be paid prior to recovery by the Department.
Seventh class. Wages due to any employee employed by the decedent, which claim for
wages shall not extend to a period of more than 12 months next preceding the death; or if such
employee was employed for the year current at the decease, then from the time of such
employment; for medical services within the 12 months preceding the decease; for drugs and
all other medical supplies necessary for the treatment of such decedent during the last illness of
such decedent, said period of last illness not to exceed 12 months.
Eighth class. A claim for equitable distribution.
Ninth class. All other claims.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, if payment of the commissions of the
personal representative under G.S. 28A-23-3(g) would cause the estate to be unable to pay all
claims against the estate of a decedent, then the commissions shall be limited to the amount
allowed under G.S. 28A-23-3(a).