South Carolina Inheritance Laws: An Overview

Posted on: June 2nd, 2020 by , No Comments

If you are planning or have just inherited an estate in South Carolina, this brief guide covers some good-to-know high-level information about South Carolina’s Inheritance Laws. 

When a Valid Will Exists

Ensuring your estate is distributed according to your wishes, is best achieved through a valid will and last testament that completely and legally outlines your interests. This is referred to as a dying testate. For a will to be considered valid it must be documented in writing with the signatures of a testator that is at least 18 years old (and of sound mind) and two witnesses and include a beneficiary. Without a valid will, the estate defaults to state inheritance laws in accordance with the Uniform Probate Code of Procedures. 

Estates larger than $25,000 must go through probate court to be settled in South Carolina. Once in the probate system, it can either be an informal probate (if everything goes uncontested and a valid will is available), or formal probate (where a part or all of the proceedings require the involvement of the court). 

In the Absence of a Valid Will

Dying without a valid will and testament is referred to as dying intestate. Estates with this status must go through the state’s inheritance and intestate succession laws with priority to the closest living relative to the deceased starting. Assuming there are no obstacles or objections, an uncontested estate can stay informal – otherwise, it will need to involve the probate court. 

Living trusts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, transfer-on-death accounts or payable-on-death accounts, and jointly owned property are assets that do not go to probate. 

Closest Living Relatives

Intestate Succession Inheritance Laws default to the surviving spouse. In the case of surviving children, the estate is split 50% to the spouse with the remaining 50% divided amongst the children. In South Carolina, state laws may limit disinheriting a spouse regardless of a valid will prior to or during marriage. 

In the event there is no surviving spouse or children, the legally recognized next-of-kin would be any living parents, followed by siblings. Eligible extended family beyond that can include grandparents, uncles, aunts, great-grandparents, etc. 

Inheritance Tax/Estate Tax Information 

While there are no inheritance or estate taxes in South Carolina, there may be federal taxes under the federal gift tax applied if more than $15,000 is received in one year. A federal estate tax may be applied on overage for up to 40% if the estate inheritance is greater than $11.58 in 2020.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that if the inheritance is coming from a deceased who resided in a state with an inheritance tax at the time of their passing, you will be required to pay that state’s taxes. 


  • Heirs retain their rights to the estate regardless of immigration status 


  • Heirs must outlive the deceased by 120 hours after which, half-relatives may inherit assets with equal claim to heirs. 
  • Any relatives conceived prior to death but born after death are disqualified from inheritance 


Be sure to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS to file any estate-based returns.