Heirs inherit only what is left after obligations of the deceased are satisfied.
The first order of business in settling an estate is to satisfy
outstanding debts along with collecting amounts due the estate. If cash on hand is not sufficient, then personal property (slaves, furniture, clothing, crops, tools, livestock, etc.) are sold first. If proceeds from sale of personal property are insufficient, the next resort is to sell the land.
Our folks lived in a cash-poor society, and they operated by credit and barter. It was not at all unusual for a deceased person's estate to be hit with unpaid debts accumulated over a span of years.
Before 1868 in North Carolina, estates were probated in the county court of pleas and quarter sessions. After that court was discontinued in 1868, estates were probated in the county superior court.
If your person's estate file survived, it may be available available online at FamilySearch.org. If you are dealing with Catawba County, some of the court's loose papers were damaged during the Civil War, and many were simply discarded by courthouse staff. Sometimes in Catawba County, the only references to an estate probate appear in county court minutes and in the Clerk of Court's bound volumes of estate proceedings. There is an index to those bound volumes for the years 1843-1885.
Sometimes deeds are not executed among heirs (or whomever) for years after the person died. The same applies to registration of deeds. So, don't overlook deeds outside the time frame of the person's death.
Let me know if this helps.