Information for Personal Representatives
Navigating the Probate Court can be a difficult and trying process. We understand that if you have been named the Personal Representative for a loved one’s estate, you have to grieve for your loss while trying to handle your duties as Personal Representative. If you have been given the task of handling an estate in Charleston, Dorchester, or Berkeley Counties, give us a call today so that we can help. Our probate attorneys will be glad to meet with you at our main office in Mount Pleasant or at another location more convenient for you. We will do our very best to take the added stress off of you and help make the probate process run smoothly.
A probate and estate attorney can help you fulfill your duties as Personal Representative, get assets properly and promptly distributed to those who are entitled to them, and discuss your right to be paid any Personal Representative fee you are entitled to if you should want such a fee. Additionally, probate attorney’s fees are usually paid from the estate and not your own pocket.
The Probate Administration Process
Opening the Estate
After a person passes away, his or her estate must be opened in the Probate Court in the County where that person was last domiciled. If they have a will it must be filed with the Probate Court. If you are named Personal Representative for the estate you have certain legal duties to the estate and to the potential heirs. South Carolina law requires the Personal Representative to send certain information to the heirs and devisees of the estate, to provide a complete inventory and appraisement of the estate’s assets, to preserve the estate property until it is distributed to the beneficiaries, and to notify potential creditors that the estate has been opened. All these duties must be performed by certain deadlines imposed by the Probate Court.
If there are creditors, they must be paid in order according to their creditor status. A Personal Representative can be held liable to the heirs or creditors of the estate if he or she improperly distributes assets or improperly pays creditors’ claims. Often time creditors file claims with estates that should not be paid or can that can be negotiated to a lesser amount. Our Charleston probate and estate attorneys can examine these claims and advise you as to how they should be paid.
If real estate is a part of the probate estate, a deed of distribution must be executed to transfer ownership. The use of a probate and estate attorney to prepare a deed of distribution is strongly recommended by the Probate Court. If real estate must be sold, a very specific Probate Court procedure must be followed.
Closing the Estate
Before an estate can be closed several documents must be completed and filed with the Probate Court, including a complete accounting of the entire probate administration (assets received during the course of administration, disbursements/bills paid out, and balance to be distributed to the beneficiaries), a proposal of distribution of the assets to all the heirs, a petition for settlement, and a notice to all of the heirs. These documents must be sent to all heirs in a specific manner.
The Probate Court
The staffs of the Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester County Probate Courts are usually helpful to Personal Representatives. Court staff cannot, however, give legal advice to a Personal Representative, like to how assets should be distributed or how creditors should be paid. A probate and estate attorney can help you fulfill your duties as Personal Representative.