In South Carolina, the probate process includes several steps. Please note that the steps may vary and many additional steps may be required in cases where there are disputes among heirs or if there are significant creditors’ claims. This list also does not include the additional steps that need to be taken when there is property owned in multiple counties or states.
Probate litigation can add years to the process, and while the basic steps will still need to be followed, the number of additional documents and filings required in these cases can be extraordinary, and if you find yourself in that situation, we strongly encourage you to meet with an attorney.
1. This process typically starts by someone filing an Application to be appointed as Personal Representative (this position is called the Executor in many other states).
2. If multiple people apply, there may be a hearing to determine who will be appointed.
3. Within 30 days after someone is appointed, information must be sent to any other heirs or potential heirs of the estate letting them know who has been appointed and that they may have an interest in the estate.
4. Within 90 days of the Personal Representative being appointed, a full inventory of all of the decedent’s assets should be filed.
5. At this point you must give creditors the amount of time set forth in our laws to file claims against the estate, which is 8 months from the time the estate is opened or 1 year from the decedent’s death, whichever comes first.
6. After this period ends, the Personal Representative must pay claims in their order of priority, or deny any claims he or she believes don’t have merit or which there are not enough assets to cover. It is critical here to understand the priority of creditors’ claims and be sure to pay claims in that order.
7. Once all claims are dealt with, the Personal Representative will need to complete the estate closing paperwork, which may include the Final Accounting, Notice of Right to Demand a Hearing, Family Agreement(s), Deeds of Distribution, Proposal for Distribution, and potentially several other forms, depending on whether there was a Will and what happened while the estate was open.
8. The Personal Representative must then make sure all of the deeds are properly recorded, get copies of those deeds to the court, and have the Probate Judge sign off on all of the paperwork and agree to close the estate and discharge the Personal Representative.
9. There may be a hearing to close the estate if everyone does not agree on what the Personal Representative files.
10. The Judge will sign the Order Closing the Estate, and any remaining assets must be distributed properly.
11. Finally, you will need to make sure any final tax returns that are required for the estate are filed. This can be especially important if the estate owed an estate tax, and in those cases you will want to make sure there was money set aside before the assets were distributed to cover the tax.
This is a very simplified version of the Personal Representative’s duties, but should at least give you an idea of all of the steps involved in this process. If you would like additional information on what to watch out for during the probate process in South Carolina, give us a call to receive a FREE copy of our book, The Top Ten Most Common Mistakes Personal Representatives Make and How to Avoid Them. If you have been appointed as someone’s Personal Representative and would like to meet with one of our attorneys to discuss the estate you are handling, please give us a call or fill out the form to the right.