Dear Liza: My relative passed away and I am the only surviving close relative. She left a will that listed me as the beneficiary of her real property. Her only assets were a small house tax value, $37,500 and 2 joint bank accounts totaling $20,000.00 with right of survivorship. The property is in North Carolina. Will this have to go through probate? Based on what you’ve told me here (and with the caveat that I’m not licensed to practice law in North Carolina), yes, this estate will need to go through probate because the value of the house ($37,500) exceeds the North Carolina small estate’s limit of $20,000 and you are not the surviving spouse. The two joint bank accounts will pass to the surviving joint owner outside of probate, but to transfer the house you’re going to need a court order, which is what probate ends with: an order by the court transferring the property to you, as the beneficiary under the Will.
If the house was worth $20,000 or less, you could have avoided probate by using North Carolina’s small estates procedure, which lets you use an Affidavit to transfer small amounts of property. But, since the house is worth more than that, you’re going to need to go through probate.
Here are two resources for you: North Carolina Inheritance Law at Legal Consumer.com and an article from Nolo’s site on North Carolina‘s probate system.