The probate process in South Carolina
When a loved one dies, whether they have a will or not, their estate will usually go through probate. Probate is a court-supervised legal process that serves the purpose of settling debts and taxes against the estate and distributing the assets as directed.
Family members are often not prepared for this sometimes very time-consuming and costly process, even if they had discussed it with their recently deceased one beforehand. And probate for an estate that has no will can be even more costly and complicated for surviving loved ones. For South Carolina and Beaufort County residents, having a trusted and knowledgeable estate planning attorney to help you plan for the future will give you and your family peace of mind. There are basically three stages of South Carolina probate which can be a formal or informal process.
In the first stage the estate is opened and the personal representative (PR) who was chosen by the testator files a petition of appointment as well as the decedent’s will, and pays the applicable fee. If the estate is intestate, the PR or executor will be appointed by the court.
Once the probate court admits the will for probate, the PR is appointed. In a formal process, the petitioner first notify named beneficiaries and heirs prior to appointment. The PR is tasked with many responsibilities, including the:
- collection and inventory of assets
- payment of debts against the estate
- distribution of the estate’s assets as directed by a will, or the state laws of intestacy if there is no will
- notification of interested parties of the PR’s appointment
- publication of legal notice of decedent’s death for creditors
The second stage of probate is the waiting period for creditors to file a claim against the estate, which may be allowed or disallowed by the PR. Creditor’s will have eight months to file their claims, and if a claim has been disallowed, they must file a petition for allowance of the claim within a specified time.
The closing of the estate requires several forms to be filed with the probate court that attest to the proper management of the asset distributions and repayment of debt. A final accounting will likely include receipts for funeral expenses, legal or accounting costs, distributions and other expenses, receipt and release from beneficiaries, and final tax returns. Small-asset estates with no real property will have a shortened process with minimal administration.