Sara W. Harrington

Sara W. Harrington

Probate and Estate Planning Attorney at Averett Family Law
  • Estate Planning, Probate
  • North Carolina
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Claimed Lawyer ProfileQ&ASocial MediaResponsive Law

I'm experienced in helping people during very stressful times of life.

For 14 years I primarily practiced consumer bankruptcy law and during that time I worked with clients going through every stage of life and experience.

I've taken what I learned from my bankruptcy practice and applied it to helping people plan for the future and follow the wishes of loved ones.

Let me assist you in ensuring your wishes are followed regarding how you would like to be treated during illness, at end of life, who you would like to speak on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself, and how you would like your assets distributed when you die.

I also assist families carry out the wishes of deceased loved ones by administering wills.

Please call 919-903-9442 for a consultation.

Practice Areas
  • Estate Planning
  • Probate
  • Credit Cards Accepted
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
North Carolina
  • English: Spoken, Written
Professional Experience
Law Office of Sara Harrington
associate attorney
Harrington, Gilleland, Winstead, Feindel, & Lucas
Campbell Law School
J.D. (2002)
Activities: Campbell Law Observer, case summary writer and advertising manager
Wake Forest University
B.A. (1994) | English major; Art minor
Activities: Old Gold and Black student newspaper editorial board, publication staff photographer
Mentor of the Month
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina
September 2012
Young Careerist
Business and Professional Women, Raleigh chapter
Gold Award
Girl Scouts of the USA
Professional Associations
North Carolina State Bar
North Carolina Bar Association
member, former Member, Lawyer Referral Service Committee
District Bar of the 15B Judicial District of North Carolina
- Current
District Bar of the 11A Judicial District of North Carolina
member, past president
Activities: past president
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
Articles & Publications
Advice for Customers of Businesses in Bankruptcy
Sanford Herald Voice of Business
Why You Should Care about Changes in Bankruptcy Law
Fifty Plus
Speaking Engagements
Financial Pitfalls for the Unemployed, First Baptist Church, Sanford
Sanford Jobseekers
Social Media Savvy for Teens, Lee County Young Commissioners, McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center
Social Media Savvy for Teens, Lee County Young Commissioners, McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center
Social Media Savvy for Teens, Lee County Young Commissioners, McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center
Social Media Savvy for Teens, Lee County Young Commissioners, McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center
Certified Mediator 2002-2008
North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission
Websites & Blogs
Legal Answers
20 Questions Answered

Q. What next with NC Assignment of Spousal Years Allowance form?
A: I'm sorry for your loss. You're off to a good start by filing the Spousal Allowance form. If your wife listed you as the beneficiary (also called TOD or POD) on her financial accounts or if you had a joint account held as "joint tenants with right of survivorship", the financial institutions should transfer the funds to you and it will pass outside the estate. This should not be counted against your Spousal Allowance. If you were not the beneficiary and have listed your wife's bank account on the Spousal Allowance, that will give you the authority to close her account and transfer the money into your account. You only need to file for an EIN if the estate needs to file a tax return and that is only triggered if the estate will generate more than $600 in annual income. When more checks come in or you remember more assets, you can amend the existing Spousal Allowance form. Many Clerk's offices allow you to copy the previous Spousal Allowance form and add in the new assets to create the Amended Application, but it varies depending on the local rules.
Q. No will, no surviving spouse, all seven children are deceased, they have children, are the children the only heirs?
A: The North Carolina laws of Intestate Succession determine who will inherit when there is no will. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the next in line are grandchildren. If some of the grandchildren have died before the person of whom you are speaking, then their children would inherit as well. Spouses of heirs do not inherit through intestate succession. The relevant law N.C.G.C. 29-15 states that "if the intestate is survived by two or more children or by one child and any lineal descendant of one or more deceased children, or by lineal descendants of two or more deceased children, they shall take as provided in G.S. 29-16." N.C.G.C. 29-16 states that "to determine the share of each surviving grandchild by a deceased child of the intestate in the property not taken under the preceding subdivision of this subsection, divide that property by the number of such surviving grandchildren plus the number of deceased grandchildren who have left lineal descendants surviving the intestate."
Q. I am the oldest of four adult children to two divorced parents. Am I their closest next of kin?
A: You and your siblings are equally related to your parents. Determining who is given a power of attorney is determined by the person over whom the power will be exercised, if that person is competent and over 18. If the person is believed to be incompetent and has no durable power of attorney (to handle the person's financial affairs) or health care power of attorney (to handle medical care), then any person, including any state or local human services agency or healthcare provider (through its authorized representative) may petition the Clerk of Court for guardianship. The person for whom you are petitioning for guardianship is entitled to be represented by counsel of his own choice or by an appointed guardian ad litem. Petitioning for guardianship should be a last resort. I advise you to talk with an attorney in your area before you take any action.
Q. My ex died owing over 25,000 in child support. My son is now 18. He died with nothing, will SSA pay benefits?
A: As you know, once a supporting parent has died, future support payments die with him. However, his estate will owe the past-due amount. Once his estate has been opened for probate you or even state child support enforcement agency may file a claim against his estate with the probate court for back child support. The estate will generally have to pay the child support obligation before assets are disbursed to those named in his will. I understand that you say he owned nothing, but if assets are found and there is no executor, your son can open the estate. If no one opens an estate for your ex within 60 days of his death, you or any other interested party could open the estate. Because your son is over 18, he would need to be a student or have a disability in order to qualify for Social Security death benefit.
Q. Spouse passed away with no will and has lawsuit settlement check coming in. What forms are needed to receive the money?
A: My condolences to you and your family on the loss of your mother. Yes, your father can file AOC-E-100 form with the Clerk of Court to get his spousal allowance without having to open an estate. Actually, the allowance has been increased to $60,000, so if there are any other assets such as vehicles that need to be transferred, that can be handled with the spousal allowance as well. I've included the section of the law regarding the spousal allowance because I thought it might be of help to you. ยง 30-15. When spouse entitled to allowance. Every surviving spouse of an intestate or of a testator, whether or not the surviving spouse has petitioned for an elective share, shall, unless the surviving spouse has forfeited the surviving spouse's right thereto, as provided by law, be entitled, out of the personal property of the deceased spouse, to an allowance of the value of sixty thousand dollars ($60,000) for the surviving spouse's support for one year after the death of the deceased spouse. Such allowance shall be exempt from any lien, by judgment or execution, acquired against the property of the deceased spouse, and shall, in cases of testacy, be charged against the share of the surviving spouse.
Q. My,mom has land and has a buyer. She has been in the nursing home for 3 1/2 years on medicaid.. Can state take her money
A: This is a more complex question than you may realize and there are other factors to consider that you have not listed. I recommend you find an elder law specialist in your area and consult with them. I agree with Attorney Winblad that what you pay to consult with an attorney could save you much more than if you don't.
Q. How to get custody over a friends child?
A: Because she is already involved in the Social Services system, you can contact Social Services and express an interest in the child being placed with you. You will have a better chance of the child being placed if you agree to take a foster parenting class (called Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting or MAPP classes) through Social Services. You and all the people living in your household will also be required to have a criminal background check and a home inspection.
Q. My dad passed with mortgage on house in NC. We can't afford/don't want it. Can the mortg co come after POD account
A: In order to open an estate, even for a small estate, if the personal representative of the estate does not live in North Carolina, you will need a resident process agent. That can be a trusted friend, but most often it's an attorney. Regarding the house, I recommend you get an experienced realtor to give you a market analysis. It might be worth more than you think and you would be throwing away money. If it is indeed not worth more than what is owed, you can contact the mortgage lender and see if they will allow the estate to sign a "deed in lieu of foreclosure." If they agree, that's cheaper and faster for them and you won't have to worry about the foreclosure notice being in the paper or the estate getting notices of every step of the foreclosure process. Real estate in North Carolina becomes property of the heirs upon death. It is only brought into the estate if it's needed to pay off debts. If the house is foreclosed and there is a deficiency between what the house sells for and the debt, the mortgage company could conceivably go after the estate. But it cannot touch the financial accounts and life insurance that passed to you and the other beneficiaries. Those pass outside the estate as well. It looks like you could file an Affidavit for Collection for the rest of the assets, which is quicker than a full estate. You do not have to hire an attorney to handle this, but I would recommend you do.
Q. What is the process to add a backup personal representative to a will after a loved one's passing?
A: The North Carolina statutes provide for a procedure to replace the executor if the executor dies. It's generally a very orderly process. The will may list successor to the executor or the Clerk may appoint someone. In your case, it sounds like the will listed no successor personal representative. No one but the person who wrote the will (the testator) can change the will and no changes can be made to a will after the testator's death. If the personal representative does not feel he or she is up to the task of handling the estate, they can decline to serve and suggest someone to serve in his/her place.
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Averett Family Law
50101 Governors Drive
Suite 150
Chapel Hill, NC 27617
Telephone: (919) 903-9442
Fax: (919) 903-9515