‘You have trouble sleeping’: Some say it takes too long to get estate paperwork when loved one dies

CHARLOTTE — When a loved one dies, on top of grieving, you have to settle their affairs or you may end up in financial hot water. But some say it’s taking too long to get certain court documents.

A man who lived in Hidden Valley passed away last year. His daughter, who asked Channel 9 not to share her name, wanted to wrap up his affairs, especially his mortgage, so his house wouldn’t end up in foreclosure.

“It’s life-changing. You have trouble sleeping,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

She really needed a certain court document to get the ball rolling, but says it was taking a long time. “We can’t do anything with my dad’s estate. We can’t get information. We can’t submit anything,” she said.

She even hired a lawyer, Charlie Hands III with the Hands Law Firm, to help.

He told Stoogenke he had other clients in the same situation.

Hands says you used to be able to go to court and get estate papers on the spot, but now you may have to wait weeks or even months.

“First of all, the whole process of grieving is taking place and then on top of that, they’re trying to take care of the affairs that they need for their family. Then they’re getting letters from the creditors. They’re getting letters from the bank,” he said.

He says they finally got the paperwork needed, but that it took more than three months. “The power is taken out of the people’s hands when they can’t get what they need from the court delays,” he said.

Stoogenke asked Mecklenburg County Clerk of Court Elisa Chinn-Gary about those delays. She says her office has “had an increase specifically in estate filings of about 38% the last three years,” but fewer workers. “Our men and women are doing a very diligent job at resolving and closing cases, but there is a gap.”

North Carolina’s Administrative Office of the Courts agrees. It recently released a study that says the Clerk’s Office needs 36 more full-time workers to keep up. “So, I am asking the legislature to simply fill the gap,” she told Stoogenke.

Other counties appear short-staffed as well. See where your county stands here.

Advice from Action 9:

Obviously, you can’t control the court system, but you’re not entirely powerless. Make sure your aging parents give you a list of their accounts, including banks, credit cards, and mortgages, and ask if they’ll add your name to the accounts. These talks can be uncomfortable, but they are important.

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