A will contains the final wishes and instructions for distribution of property to heirs of the will's author, also referred to as the testator. In North Carolina, a will must be filed with the probate court within the time frame stipulated in state laws to be eligible for probate, the proceeding used to give authority to the executor.
A will is filed in the probate court to meet requirements set under North Carolina laws and for the initiation of probate. Probate allows the executor -- who manages the estate's assets and fulfills the will's provisions -- to access assets of the estate, such as bank accounts the testator had, and transfer the items to the recipients designated in the will. All legal heirs of the testator are notified of the probate proceedings and given a chance to accept or contest the will.
Read More: North Carolina Rules for Filing Wills
The will must be filed in the North Carolina probate court by the executor no later than two years after the death of the testator. A legal heir or a beneficiary under the will can file the will to start probate if the executor does not petition the court within 60 days of the testator's death but must give the executor written notice of his intent 10 days prior to filing in court.
An executor may have more than two years from the testator's death to file the will if the will was suppressed, lost, stolen or destroyed. The executor or a legal heir can petition the court to obtain the will or re-create the document. The deadline for the filing of the will is two years from the date the will location or re-creation action is finished.
A will cannot be filed for an estate that was subject to administration (the proceedings used to settle an estate of a person who left no known will) once the court has approved the final accounting statement of the appointed administrator in North Carolina. A will can be filed if administration proceedings have been started but the estate has not yet been settled.