Marianne F. Hatton's Blog

How Does Probate Work in South Carolina?

We know that probate is an official way of settlement of an estate. In South Carolina, a probate is handled by the ‘Probate Court’ and the estate settlement is done under the supervision of this court.

In the case, there is either no will, or there is no nominated person for inheritance as per the deceased person’s will. The court appoints an adult child or surviving spouse, known as an executor, to gather the assets and distribute them among the beneficiaries after paying taxes and bills.

Purpose of Probate in South Carolina

The basic purpose of probate is the prevention of fraud after a person’s death. This is to prevent the assets of a deceased’s person from theft. Furthermore, it is a way to freeze the estate till the judge ensures that;

• The will is authentic

• All the relevant individuals are notified

• All the property is appraised and identified

• All the taxes and creditors are paid

Once all of the above mentioned is done, the court releases an order to distribute the property and closes off the case.

Is probate applicable for all types of property?

Probate isn’t for all properties. Only the estates which fall below a pre-determined threshold may require the court’s supervision for settlement. Moreover, not all assets require probate for transfer. Some may transfer automatically after the death of the owner. These include:

• Joint Tenancy – When one tenant dies, another joint tenant automatically becomes the owner of the complete asset without requiring a court order

• Tenancy by the Entirety – Like joint tenancy, the surviving joint tenant becomes the owner of the entire asset after the death of one owner, but this is applicable to married couples only.

• Beneficiary Designations – Insurance policies including retirement accounts hold beneficiary names and after the death of account/policy owners, the beneficiaries get the entitlement of account, assets, or the policy.

The Uniform Probate Code

In South Carolina, the general procedure that is required to get an estate settled via probate is written in a set of legal laws known as Uniform Probate Code. These probate procedures are adopted in 15 states and with minor variations. South Carolina, however, has three different kinds of probate proceedings. Let us have a look at each one of them separately.

Informal Probate

Such a proceeding is taken up when the beneficiaries and heirs get along nicely and when there are no creditor disputes to resolve. These proceedings are informal and usually carried out when there is no trouble expected with regards to the transfer of assets.

Formal Probate – Unsupervised

A formal probate (even unsupervised) is a court proceeding in which a judge approves certain actions of the personal representative like distributing assets, selling estate property, or payment to an attorney. The reason for involving a court judge is to settle the disputes of beneficiaries over asset distribution, the amount payable to creditors, and validation of the will.

Formal Probate – Supervised

In formal probate, the court is involved in the supervision of the entire process of probate and the court is responsible for approving the property distribution.

Marianne F. Hatton
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