Understanding the South Carolina Probate System

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

To ensure estate fraud does not occur, South Carolina uses the Probate Court to determine proper notification and distribution of interests have been applied. The court is involved in the verification of a Valid Will and Estate Appraisal as well as confirming taxes and creditors receive their due. The Court will appoint or assign a Personal Representative (also known as an Executor) to gather all necessary documents and perform the needed duties to complete the aforementioned tasks in order to close the estate.

PROBATE COURT EXCEPTIONS

  1. Small Estates that fall below a certain threshold are exempt from court involvement. 
  2. Some assets can be automatically activated upon death without probate such as:
    1. Right of Survivorship – If a joint tenancy was in place at the time of death, the surviving tenant is immediately transferred ownership of the residency
    2. Payable on Death Accounts/Transfer on Death Accounts
    3. Assets included Living Trust

PROBATE COURT PROCESS

If an estate does not meet the exceptions, it moves to Probate Court as either an Informal Probate, Unsupervised Formal Probate, or Supervised Formal Probate proceeds.

If all heirs and beneficiaries are cooperating and no creditor or other issues are present, one can file an Informal Probate application with the court to become a Personal Representative who will then be responsible for:

  • Send out formal notice to heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors that you know of
  • Publish a notice in a local newspaper to alert other creditors
  • Provide proof of mailed notices and published the notice
  • Prepare an inventory and appraisal of the estate’s assets
  • Keep all the property safe
  • Distribute the property (when the estate closes)
  • Filing a “Final Accounting” and “Closing “Statement”

Should there be disagreements or obstacles the estate goes through court proceedings. A proceeding is categorized as Unsupervised Formal Probate if a Judge is needed only to settle objections. If, however, the court is involved in every aspect of asset distribution it is referred to as Supervised Formal Probate.