Charleston Probate Administration
Probate is the legal process by which an estate is settled. It is possible to plan an estate so that all of the assets of the deceased are non-probate. In situations where probate is necessary, it can occur with or without a will and we can help represent you during this process. Our team at Wiles is well-versed in probate administration and can advocate for your loved one’s estate from reading of the will, to transfer of assets, to closing of the estate. We intimately understand South Carolina law and will protect the estate on your behalf. It is essential to have an experienced lawyer on your side during this time as state law, rather than the deceased’s wishes, can determine how the estate will be distributed.
The Process of Probate in Charleston
- Once someone passes, their will is petitioned and heirs and beneficiaries are notified
- The executor or Personal Represenative then petitions their will in to probate court to settle the estate
- The probate court determines whether or not to use the executor or appoint a different personal representative. The personal representative can administer the estate under the court’s supervision or a judge can preside over the entire estate.
- The probate court can have complete jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the estate, including protection of minors and incapacitated adults, trusts, and survival action settlements of wrongful death lawsuits.
- On average, the entire process can take 8 months to over a year
- Easily 10% of your assets can be lost due to commissions, attorney fees, court costs and probate fees
- Presiding judge is not required to hold a law degree
- All property is identified, inventoried and appraised
- Debts are paid off
- Remaining assets are distributed according to the will or state law
The Duties of the Personal Representative
Once the personal representative has been officially appointed by South Carolina Probate Court, he or she has a number of duties to fulfill, including to:
- Open an estate checking account to receive funds and pay taxes
- Have assets appraised by professionals
- Take an inventory of all of the estate’s assets for the court
- Decide which assets should be conserved and which should be sold
- Evaluate creditor claims and pay all legitimate ones from estate monies
- Notify Social Security, banks, brokers, utility, credit card companies, etc. of the death
- File taxes — both final income tax returns and death tax returns — on a timely basis
- Distribute assets to designated beneficiaries as stipulated in the will
- Prepare an accounting for the court of income, sale of assets, debt payments, etc.
The ONLY way to avoid probate is to have assets in a fully funded in a living trust. The trust should be held jointly with right of survivorship, or have a designated beneficiary.
We would be honored to represent you or your loved one’s estate throughout this process. Contact our team to start the conversation today.