Get Answers to Common Estate Planning Questions in South Carolina
An informed client makes the planning process much more smooth and efficient. Therefore, we encourage our clients to learn all they can, and to help we do our best to thoroughly answer all questions. Before you even begin the legal process, we want you to feel comfortable and have as much information as possible. We’ve assembled answers to many common questions to get you started here.
If you want more information after looking through some of these entries, be sure to also check out our books!
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What Information Do I Need to Leave For my Spouse and Children?
When someone comes to us who has recently lost a spouse or loved one, they often tell us there are several things they wish their spouse or loved one had done. The first is, of course, to have updated their estate plan within the last couple of years. I think we all know this is important. However, the second major area of frustration is not knowing how to handle the deceased person’s bills or how to contact their friends. Below are a few tips to help your own family members avoid those frustrations.
- First, be sure to keep an updated list of passwords handy. This can be accomplished, while still keeping those passwords secure, by making a written list that is regularly updated and kept in your home safe of safe deposit box at the bank, or by keeping a password-protected file on your computer with a full list of those passwords. Also, make sure to include the answers to the security questions that are sometimes required in addition to the password itself. Make sure the person you are trusting with this information knows how to get to it in an emergency. This should include both passwords needed to pay bills and those needed to access your email and social media accounts.
- Along with the list of passwords, it can be really helpful to have a list of all of the monthly bills that need to be paid (mortgage, utilities, car payment(s), etc.), how to pay them and what day of the month they are due. We have had numerous cases where the spouse that handled all of this passed away and left the surviving spouse with no idea of exactly what needed to be paid and when, which can be very frustrating.
- Finally, for those of you running businesses, keep in mind you need to do the same thing for any of these types of tasks that only you handle within your business. Be sure either a family member or trusted employee knows how to handle these tasks in the event you suddenly pass away. This will help ensure that everything continues to run smoothly even in the case of an emergency.
These are just a few things to consider when planning for your family’s future. If you or a loved one have additional concerns or need to begin planning, feel free to call us to set an appointment so we can sit down and discuss your individual concerns.
Can I avoid probate with a Will?
Lately we have had several people ask us whether a having a Will means they can avoid Probate. The short answer is, probably not.
A Will, as we have discussed before, is actually a set of directions you have written for your probate estate. This includes all of the property you own for which title does not automatically transfer to the person you have named at your death. Examples of property that avoids probate includes property owned with a right of survivorship or assets which have a beneficiary named (such as life insurance policies and bank accounts that have transfer on death designations set up).
Probate can be a serious concern because any property that passes through Probate will be subject to creditors’ claims such as final medical expenses, nursing home costs, or any other final bills of the decedent. This process can also take over a year to complete and often leads to litigation between heirs when there is a disagreement. We will be posting later this month about the best ways to avoid probate, and will be spending next month talking about the ways to best manage an estate if it does have to go through Probate.
In the meantime, if you have an urgent question feel free to give us a call and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.
What is a Will?
Your Last Will and Testament, or more simply, your Will, is your directions for how your property should be passed after your death. A Will only comes into effect after your death and only controls what is known as “probate” property. This type of property basically includes any assets that would not pass automatically at your death. So, any accounts with beneficiary designations or assets owned “with right of survivorship” are not controlled by your Will.
The Will includes instructions such as who should be appointed to administer your Estate (this person is known as your “Personal Representative” in South Carolina, and is commonly referred to as an Executor in other states), who the property should go to, whether you wish to have the Personal Representative post bond to protect your property, whether you wish to be buried or cremated, and can even help determine who would get custody of your minor children were something to happen to you and your spouse.
If you do not have a Will, the State has prepared a default Will for you called the intestacy statute. You can read more about how that works by clicking here. If you have any questions about your estate plan, or wish to learn more about Wills in South Carolina, please give us a call.