Johnston County Clerk of Court Michelle Ball has responded to a report from the NC Office of State Auditor that found some issues with the agency.
The audit covered the period of July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017. The audit found no issues with $11,604,338 in cash and $126,414 in estate fees collected. However, auditors did uncover problems with the Estate Division.
Auditors examined 65 of 91 estates filed during the period. Officials discovered 11 (17 percent) were not completed on time. Specifically, 8 (12 percent) of the estates were issued 34 to 72 days after the state-mandated three-month inventory deadline. For 3 (5 percent) estates, the Clerk failed to issue written requests requesting inventory filings.
“In addition to the delays and potential loss in fee collections, the Clerk’s failure to compel the timely filing of inventories could result in authorized transactions from the estate including, but not limited to, the removal of estate assets without the knowledge of qualified heirs. It could also delay the family of the deceased from finalizing the estate,” the June 13, 2017 audit report stated.
According to Ball, during the time the errors occurred, the workload in the estate department was unusually high which resulted in certain inventories not being completed on time.
Under NC General Statute, the Clerk is required by law to require the filing of an estate inventory within 3 months of the appointment of the estate’s personal representative. If an inventory is not filed, the Clerk must send a written request requiring the personal representative to file the inventory or explain why they should not be replaced.
In a May 30, 2017 letter from Johnston County Clerk of Court Michelle Ball to State Auditor Beth A. Wood, Ball concurred with the audit and said the number of timely filings of estate inventories has increased greatly.