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Charleston Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Probate Process in South Carolina Explained

Why is it best to avoid probate whenever possible?

Probate is the legal process by which the court settles the estate of the deceased.  Each state sets its own rules and guidelines regarding probate.  In South Carolina, probate will be necessary when the deceased person (the decedent) personally owns property.  Probate will be required even if a person has a will.  The best way to avoid probate, or minimize the assets distributed through it, is through the use of irrevocable or revocable trusts.  

Types of Probate in SC

In South Carolina, there are three potential types of probate proceeding: informal, unsupervised formal, or supervised formal.  All proceedings will be initiated by filing an application with the probate court, which will require the death certificate and the decedent’s will, if he or she had one. Assets held in trust or those that transfer automatically upon death, such as retirement accounts or life insurance proceeds, will not need to go through probate.

 During an informal probate, the probate court will appoint a personal representative to the estate.  The personal representative then sends out a form titled Information to Heirs and Devisees.  The personal representative will need to publish a notice in the newspaper and will be charged with protecting the assets.  Eventually, the assets will be distributed and the personal representative will close out the probate by filing several forms, to include a final accounting and closing statement.

During formal probate, either unsupervised or supervised, the court must approve certain actions taken by the personal representative.  For instance, the personal representative may need approval before selling the property of the estate or distributing assets.  If disputes arise between beneficiaries, the court will need to settle such disputes.

Avoiding Probate

Probate can be a lengthy and expensive process.  Probate will require the outlay of court fees, attorney’s fees, and many other expenses.  Your beneficiaries may be stuck in limbo as the court struggles to prepare for the distribution of assets.  For these reasons, many estate planning attorneys will work with their clients to eliminate or minimize the need for probate.  This can be accomplished through the use of trusts, joint tenancy, and other creative means.  Contact an estate planning lawyer to get started with preparing your estate plan today.


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Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

Information on this website is not legal advice. Further, viewing of the enclosed information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Matters will be handled by attorneys who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 852 Lowcountry Blvd., Ste. 101, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. M. Emerson Wiles, III is the attorney responsible for this advertisement.

Any result Wiles Law Firm, LLC may achieve on behalf of one client in one particular matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. Please contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney or one of our attorneys with Wiles Law Firm, LLC for a consultation regarding your unique estate plan.

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