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January 8, 2017

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Probate Law in South Carolina

probate estate planning lawyer in Greenville SC

While it is always a good idea to have a will in South Carolina and throughout the US, failing to have one is not going to cause the state to take your property. It is, however, going to make things much more difficult for those who are left to administer the estate and distribute the assets to their proper beneficiaries and heirs. When you don’t have a will, the law still states that your family will inherit your assets. It’s just much simpler and far less costly for your surviving loved ones if you have a will that dictates where you wish everything to go.

With all of this in mind, it is worth noting that just because you do have a will, that doesn’t mean that your estate won’t go through probate court. Rather, it means that the process will be easier and less challenging for your loved ones to deal with. Still, there are many questions that people have about the probate process in South Carolina. This post will address the questions that we see most frequently about South Carolina probate at the Anderson Law Firm.

What Are the First Steps to Take Following the Death of a Loved One?

When someone you love passes away, you’ll receive a death certificate. As soon as you receive this, you should contact a South Carolina probate attorney and the county probate court in the county where your loved one resided. A probate court judge and their staff will assist you through the process ahead of you, and your attorney will make sure that the best interests of yourself and other heirs and beneficiaries are protected. At this point, you’ll schedule a probate appointment, which you will need to prepared for. Again, the attorneys at the Anderson Law Firm can help with all of this and make the process much less complicated for you.

What Will Be Needed at Your Probate Appointment?

When you go to the probate appointment, you should be prepared with the appropriate documents and information. This will include the death certificate, any will that your loved one may have had, and the contact information of all family members, whether or not they are listed in the will of the deceased person.

Who Will You Meet with at a Probate Appointment and What Will Be Accomplished?

A probate appointment will be between yourself and probate clerk. It will be a private appointment, and the probate clerk will probably have a lot of experience in guiding people through this process. They will explain the situation and the things that need to be done, and you should take notes about whatever they tell you. This is also where you prepare the petition to open the estate in a official capacity. You will need to publish a notice in the newspaper to alert any creditors about the death and also deliver notices to family members of the deceased. The probate clerk is going to help with this whole process. You’ll also need to conduct an Inventory and Appraisement of the assets, which will be thoroughly explained by the clerk. They will also probably talk to you about contacting an attorney.

How Complicated Will the Probate Process End Up Being?

The probate process can actually be very simple in the majority of cases. When there is no will, it can become more complicated, especially if there are minor heirs and disagreements within the family. If there are any tax issues associated with the heirs or heirs who have judgments against them and moneys owed to others. If the deceased suffered from a mental health condition or received assistance like Medicaid, then this can further complicate the situation, as well.

What Does the Inventory and Appraisement Process Accomplish?

The Inventory and Appraisement has to be filed in the probate court by the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate. The inventory is where you establish exactly what assets the person had when they passed away. it will include a list of all of the assets and the value of those assets, which will include their non-joint bank accounts and savings accounts, any real estate and personal property that they owned, and any investments and other assets. In some cases, the tax obligations can be reduced through selling certain properties and assets. It is wise to enlist the guidance of a South Carolina probate attorney for this process.

Is the Probate Process Going to Cost a Lot of Money?

There will be certain expenses associated with the probate process. For example, there may be court costs, expenses associated with publishing the newspaper notice for creditors, fees for filing, fees associated with filing the inventory, and other legal expenses. The more complex the probate process becomes, especially if there are disputes, the more expensive it will be.

In cases where there is not a will, there will be additional expenses associated with the administration of the estate. With minor, spouses, children from previous marriages, and family members who do not agree on certain issues or get along in general, everything becomes much more costly due to the increased need for court intervention and legal representation.

Is There Any Way To Minimize the Costs and Complexities of Probate?

The best way to make things simpler and less expensive is to be prepared. If there is a will, then everything becomes a lot easier and cheaper in the long run. If you have an estate planning attorney working with you, then they can assist with simplifying the process.

How Can We Avoid Probate Altogether?

There are ways that you can avoid probate, by planning your estate carefully with the aid of an estate planning lawyer like those at the Anderson Law Firm. We’ll help you to create trusts and plan ahead with the potential issues of family disputes and other problems in mind. Call today to schedule an appointment with a skilled probate law attorney in Greenville, SC to discuss your estate plan and how to avoid probate.