When you leave behind a will, your heirs may require the assistance of the probate court to take ownership of your assets. As reported by SmartAsset.com, South Carolina estates with a value of at least $25,000 must settle through the probate process. If your estate’s value falls below $25,000, however, your heirs may avoid probate in the Palmetto State.
The common or “informal probate” procedure for assets worth $25,000 or more takes place when a will exists and lists the deceased’s assets and heirs. When no parties dispute your will’s contents, the probate court may distribute your estate according to your written instructions.
Notifying heirs and creditors
Wills name a personal representative who assists the probate court in distributing an estate’s assets. As noted by the York County Probate Court, personal representatives must submit to the court the deceased’s will, death certificate and heirs’ contact information.
The probate court notifies heirs, who may in some cases decide to contest a will. The court also notifies creditors so that they may collect unpaid debts. The court typically publishes a notice of the testator’s death in a local newspaper. Notices may appear once per week for at least three weeks. Creditors may file a claim within eight months from the date of the first notice’s publication.
Distributing property to heirs without a will
When dying without a will, the probate court may distribute assets under South Carolina’s intestate succession laws. If you have a surviving spouse, but do not have children, your spouse may receive all your property. With children, however, the court may distribute half of your estate to your spouse and divide the other half between your children.
You may wish to consider creating an estate plan and naming a personal representative. A valid and well-written will could help transfer property to surviving heirs in the manner you intend.