Wills and Estate Planning
Our Wills and Estate Planning Attorneys can help you plan for the future so that your assets are passed down to the ones you love.
When a person dies without a Will, South Carolina law determines how the person’s assets will be distributed. A Will can override the statutory law and distribute your remaining assets exactly how you desire. If you are married and have children, you likely will not like how your assets are distributed in the absence of a Will. If you are married and you or your spouse dies without a will, half of the deceased’s estate must be passed to your children regardless of their age. A will can prevent this from happening. Furthermore, a Will makes the Probate process much simpler for your loved ones.
Additionally, documents such as a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Living Will are vital to any good estate plan. They allow you to direct how your financial and health decisions are made if you become incompetent due to injury or illness. Expressing your wishes in these documents gives you control and can take tough healthcare decisions out of your loved ones hands so that they are not burdened with having to make them.
Our Wills and Estate Planning Lawyers can create an effective estate plan for you so that the things you leave behind are distributed exactly as you desire, giving you peace of mind that the loved ones you leave behind are taken care of. Contact our Charleston Estate Planning Lawyers at (843) 388-3661.
Many times the Probate process does not run smoothly because of family conflict over how the assets of the estate should be distributed. Our Probate Attorneys can help those involved in Probate litigation, including Will and Trust contests, administration of trusts, and problems regarding inheritance. These matters often involve significant emotional and financial issues. Call our probate and estate lawyers if you need help handling any legal matters concerning your loved one’s probate estate in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester Counties.
In South Carolina, a person’s estate is distributed according to the intestacy laws if a person dies without a Will. The law clearly assigns percentages of the estate to certain beneficiaries, but often time disputes arise as to the value of property or how specific property should be divided. Experts may need to be brought in to value property, and suit may need to brought to partition real estate or liquidate personal assets.
Whether you are an heir, the personal representative, or both, a probate and estate attorney can help represent your interests. Please give our probate attorneys a call today so that we can discuss your situation and help you resolve family conflicts with as little stress as possible.
Often time potential heirs to an estate challenge the validity of Will, especially one drafted or revised shortly before death. Wills and property distribution can be challenged on a variety of issues, such as:
- Lack of capacity to make a Will usually due to dementia or other mental illness,
- The undue influence of a family member, caretaker, or close friend,
- Improper execution of a Will,
- Potentially unclear or ambiguous provisions in a Will, and
- The omission of a spouse and the spousal elective share.
If you feel there has been foul play in the execution of a Will that has resulted in the unfair distribution of your loved one’s estate, please give our probate and estate lawyers a call today. Our Probate Attorneys understand disputes among family members can be very difficult, and we will strive to get you through this difficult situation as quickly and painlessly as possible.
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.