Probate Lawyer in Greenville, SC
Considering and preparing for how you want your family taken care of when you pass away is a vital part of the estate planning process. Probate, which can be confusing and costly, is the process in which the court divvies up your estate, rather than as per your unique specifications. With careful planning, it is possible to use legal vessels such as a living trust to avoid probate, if you so choose.
What exactly is probate law?
Probate is a formal legal process in which an executor or a personal representative (PR) is appointed over your estate to administer any existing will you may have and distribute your assets. Stated another way, probate is the legally mandated protocol that must be followed after someone dies to settle his estate. South Carolina Code of Laws Title 62 details probate laws.
There are several things involved in the probate process. Within the confines of the laws, the PR will have to accomplish the following.
- Identify and inventory your property
- Prove that your will is valid (if you have one)
- Have all of your property appraised
- Pay any outstanding debts and taxes
- Distribute the remaining assets to your beneficiaries
How does the probate law process work?
In its simplest terms, probate is a four-step process.
- Initiate – The probate process will be initiated when the executor of your estate that you named in your will (or the court-appointed PR if you have no will) files legal documents with the local court after you die. If you reside in Greenville, the probate proceedings will take place at Greenville County Square on University Ridge.
- Determine assets – After proving the validity of your will, the executor will have to give the courts an updated list of all of your assets, as well as a list of the beneficiaries who are to receive a portion of your property. Once the papers are filed, family members will be formally notified of the proceedings.
Note: If you do not have a will, your remaining assets will eventually be divvied up per statutory law, which may or may not be according to your wishes. This is a key argument for taking the time to create a detailed will, rather than letting the state decide matters. If you have explicit preferences for, say, how you want your art or antique car collection handled after you die, or you want to make sure your charity of choice receives a donation, you need a will to specify those terms, or you will be at the mercy of statutory laws.
- Pay debts – It can take several months for the executor to locate and assess your property in probate. Once accomplished, the executor must pay any outstanding debts, as well as taxes, funeral costs, attorney’s fees, and court fees. If your estate lacks adequate liquidity to meet your financial obligations, the executor may need to sell some of your property first. Your family retains the right to ask the court to release a portion of the funds for their short-term support in the interim until your case resolves.
- Distribute – Finally, the remaining assets will be distributed to family members.
Should I try to avoid probate?
Probate can be an arduous process. In cases where you have limited assets, the state’s probate process may suffice for your family. However, if you have sufficient assets or debts, or are over the age of 50, your family might benefit by avoiding the probate process altogether.
Certain assets generally do not pass through probate and are handled per contractual terms, such as retirement plans and life insurance plans. There are also other legal methods you can use to protect your assets and your estate preferences. Note: Certain probate-avoidance approaches may have fees and other caveats to consider before you decide to use them.
Probate Attorney – Examples
Below are a few examples of methods you may employ so that your family can avoid some of the hassles of the court-supervision process of probate.
- Living trusts
- Bank accounts with payable-on-death designations
- Joint tenancy property
- Brokerage accounts in transfer-on-death (TOD) form
Which methods might work well for you depend upon the details of your estate and your preferences. A Probate Attorney can help you decide what is best for you.
Where can I find help to manage my probate law issues?
If you are careful with your estate planning, you can ensure your property is handled exactly the way you want and that your family is taken care of. Our firm, based in Greenville, South Carolina provides all types of estate planning and asset protection services, including wills, trusts, and probate representation. Contact Anderson Law Firm today at 864-210-8222 for a free consultation.