If you pass away without a will in South Carolina, the court steps in and freezes your assets before ensuring the notification of all relevant parties of your death. Your entire estate, such as bank accounts, home, vehicle and other property, must go through probate, which may be an expensive prospect for your loved ones. The process can take several months, up to a year.
Having a will might minimize the amount of time your assets remain frozen, but depending on your situation, an estate plan might benefit your heirs more in the long run.
What is a will?
According to the American Bar Association, a will can address a variety of objectives, including appointing a guardian for your children, a trustee for your property and dividing your assets among beneficiaries. This process can help minimize the cost of probate and avoid disputes between family members. Whereas a will is a single document, an estate plan encompasses various documents that include your will.
What is an estate plan?
Creating an estate plan typically takes more time than a will but provides a more comprehensive understanding of your wishes. Standard documents for estate plans include the following:
- Living will
- Advance medical directives
- Financial power of attorney
- Revocable living trust
- Pour-over will
Major life events typically help shape the need and scope of an estate plan. For example, if you have children, the will can appoint a guardian. However, an estate plan can encompass a trust which may hold assets until they reach a certain age. You can set aside funds for their education, wedding or other purposes.
Understanding your options and the types of future events you can plan for often help you determine if a will or estate plan is the best decision for you and your family.