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Taking on probate in South Carolina

The death of a loved one (let’s assume a parent) often leaves you with serious responsibilities. It can help to know you’re doing the right thing on their behalf.

The legal process of ensuring your parent’s assets go where they should is called probate.

Probate in South Caronia can be complex, frustrating and contentious. Simply avoiding probate lawsuits is often a major goal and probate attorneys typically will encourage you to stay focused on it.

What escapes probate?

Some of your parent’s assets may skip probate entirely. Such assets could be:

  • Property jointly owned with someone having the “right of survivorship.”
  • Assets such as stocks, bonds, retirement or bank accounts listing a death beneficiary.
  • Gifts your parent gives before dying.
  • Any living trust your parent established likely specifies what should happen to its assets and who can make decisions about them.

Keeping these categories in mind could also eventually save your children from their own probate hassles.

Your basic responsibilities

If your parent named an executor (someone to manage affairs upon their death), they will be the probate administrator. If not, the court will appoint someone.

The administrator’s basic duties are:

  • Gather all property going through probate.
  • Pay debts owed by your parent (like taxes).
  • Collect assets owed to your parent (like income or dividends).
  • Settle any disputes.
  • Distribute remaining property to the rightful heirs.

Probate happens

Often, probate goes uncontested. Other times, for various personal or legal reasons someone wants more than they got.

Such challenges may have merit. For example, South Carolina’s “elective share” law generally entitles surviving spouses to one-third of the deceased’s estate.

Probate administration is seldom easy, and some administrators benefit from professional advice.

For example, creditors sometimes demand assets from the estate. They may be entitled to them unless they miss the required window of time for such demands. However, this window may be challenged if the executor makes certain mistakes among the many timeframe requirements in South Carolina’s probate code.

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