South Carolina Probate Lawyer
Hiring a probate lawyer isn’t the first thing on your mind after losing a loved one. Unfortunately, even families with well-designed estate plans have to follow specific legal procedures when distributing a loved one’s property. It can be difficult to navigate the South Carolina probate system on your own. A skilled South Carolina probate lawyer can help you protect your family and its assets.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of distributing property after someone dies — either with or without a will. If there is a valid will, property is distributed according to its terms. If your loved one did not have a will or trust, property is then distributed according to South Carolina’s inheritance laws. Without a will, probate proceedings can become lengthy, complicated, and expensive. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary costs and delays, consider drafting a will or forming a trust now. (Your loved ones will thank you later).
South Carolina’s Probate Process
South Carolina’s probate process typically involves:
- Opening an estate,
- Appointing a personal representative for the estate,
- Confirming that the will is authentic and valid,
- Inventorying the estate’s assets,
- Notifying creditors and potential beneficiaries,
- Paying the estate’s debts and tax obligations,
- Preparing and filing a Deed of Distribution, and
- Distributing the estate’s assets appropriately.
Because the process is complicated and time intensive, probate can be stressful. It can also lead to disagreements and conflict within a family. This is especially true if there is no will or you are working without the guidance of a South Carolina probate lawyer.
If you have concerns about the administration of an estate, consider speaking with an experienced South Carolina probate lawyer. A lawyer can help you interpret your loved one’s estate plan (or the state’s inheritance laws), open an estate, and understand the often-complicated probate process.
Estate Planning in South Carolina
Advanced planning can make the probate process easier. Or, conversely, it can allow your family to completely avoid probate court. A lawyer can help you understand your estate planning options, as well as wills and trusts. A thorough estate plan can also protect your assets and insure that they are distributed pursuant to your wishes.
We Can Help You Avoid Probate Court
Many families would prefer to avoid probate — and its related costs and delays — all together. Our experienced probate lawyers can help you and your loved ones build an estate plan that avoids the complex probate system. Typically, this involves creating a trust. Additionally, certain assets may not require probate and transfer automatically to another owner or beneficiary at death. Together, we can structure your assets and estate to minimize or avoid probate proceedings.
Trusts Protect Your Assets and Benefit for Your Loved Ones
A trust holds property for the benefit of your loved ones. When you create a trust, you transfer assets into the trust —these assets are then managed and distributed according to a legal document. Trusts are not just for the very wealthy — they can benefit almost any family.
People use trusts for a variety of purposes, including:
- Living Trusts: Established and controlled by you while you are alive. After you die, the trust’s assets are transferred to your beneficiaries. Living trusts typically do not have to go through probate.
- Special Needs Trusts: Provides financial support for a disabled loved one. Many government benefits have financial requirements — if your loved one’s assets exceed the legal limits, benefits stop. However, assets within a special needs trust are not considered when assessing eligibility for many government benefits. (This may subsequently allow your loved one to receive much-needed assistance.)
- Testamentary Trusts: Established after your death — and typically part of your will. While testamentary trusts must go through South Carolina probate, they allow you to distribute your property over time (for example, allowing grandchildren to receive assets once they reach a certain age).
If you have questions about creating a trust in South Carolina, contact us for more information.
Contact a South Carolina Probate Lawyer
If you need a South Carolina probate lawyer, the Steadman Law Firm is ready to serve you. We use over 35 years of experience to protect our client’s interests.