Is There a Time Limit to Probate a Will in South Carolina?

16 Dec, 2023

On Behalf of Mack & Mack Attorneys | probate administration

Probate is the process by which a deceased person’s assets are legally distributed among beneficiaries and heirs. Whether the deceased individual has left a valid will or not, probate provides the means by which ownership of their assets is passed to their designated beneficiary or beneficiaries. The process also works to settle the debts that the deceased may have incurred, along with any final taxes that may be owed. A South Carolina probate lawyer can help these procedures go more smoothly.

However, the timeframe in which this occurs is critical for those involved. Our Fort Mill Probate Administration Lawyer can provide you with the information you need to know about the timelines involved in probate.

What documents are needed for probate in South Carolina?

All Assets Are Not Subject to Probate

To understand the time limits involved in the probate process, it is first important to know what is and is not subject to probate court. Not all assets need to go through the process. Assets that would need to go through probate include:

  • Property that is owned by the deceased
  • Any property that is held as a tenant in common
  • Any interest that the deceased may have had in a partnership, corporation, or LLC

Those assets that do not need to be processed through probate include:

  • Any property involved in joint tenancy with a right to survivorship
  • Any retirement accounts that include a designated beneficiary
  • Any insurance accounts with a designated beneficiary
  • Distributions from a pension plan
  • Any assets that are held in a trust
  • Any assets that are designated as transfer-on-death or payable-on-death

The importance of understanding these various assets can help ensure that the probate process is completed quickly and within the legal timeframe.

The Probate Process

To fully understand the timelines involved in probate, it is critical to know the details of the process. These include when to file certain forms as well as how long the complete process may take. The steps in probate include:

  • Delivery of the will. Upon death, the person in possession of the deceased’s will is responsible for delivering it to the judge within 30 days. This can also be delivered to the personal representative identified within the will.
  • The appointment of a personal representative. If the will contains the name of the personal representative, then the judge will then make it official after the will has been delivered.
  • Estate valuation. Within 90 days of the opening of the estate, which usually occurs within three weeks after filing the probate petition, the personal representative is responsible for obtaining appraisals of the deceased’s assets. These include real estate, art, and jewelry.
  • Accounting. Outstanding debts or other ongoing expenses must be settled in addition to any estate taxes. The order in which these are settled is determined by state law.
  • Disbursement. After debts have been settled and taxes paid, the identified heirs and beneficiaries will receive their distributions. If there is a will, it will be distributed according to the terms of the will. If there is no will, they will be distributed according to the laws that govern intestate succession.
  • Closure of the estate. After all these steps have been taken, the personal representative overseeing the estate will file a number of forms with the court. After that, the probate will close after the issuance of a Certificate of Discharge by the state.

The total time for the probate process could take up to a year to complete. However, the time-sensitive deadlines along the way need to be met. If there is a failure to meet these deadlines, then the estate will be dispersed in accordance with state law.

Creditors, on the other hand, have a three-year statute of limitations to file a claim against the estate. If, however, a claim is filed after assets are distributed, then they could seek reimbursement from those who received funds from the estate.


Q: How Long Do You Have to File Probate After One’s Death in South Carolina?

A: When a person passes away, the law requires that any will that exists for that person must be presented to the court within 30 days. Once the will is presented in court, the court will designate a personal representative who will oversee the disbursement of the estate. If no will is presented or one does not exist, the court will move forward in accordance with the law.

Q: What Is the Longest Time That a Probate Can Take?

A: The amount of time that the probate process takes will vary, depending on the circumstances of the estate and any challenges that may be presented. However, most probate cases take an average of between 8 months and a year. The exact timeline that your case may face can be discussed with your attorney, who can help guide you through the process.

Q: Does a Will Avoid Probate in South Carolina?

A: The presence of a will does not negate the probate process. The will is there to serve as the voice of the deceased. However, there are certain assets that must go through probate. These include real estate and business investments. This legal process is vital to helping transfer the ownership of assets. If there is not a will, then the court will distribute the assets according to state law.

Q: Do Wills Have to Be Filed With the Court in South Carolina?

A: A completed will does not have to be filed with the court until the person who created the will passes. There is a 30-day window in which the will must be filed with the court. The filing of the will and the probate petition begin the process of transferring assets from the deceased to their designated beneficiaries or to others in accordance with state law.

Fort Mill Probate Administration Lawyer

The probate process can be complicated and confusing. No matter how many questions you may have, find the answers you need at Mack & Mack Attorneys. Our team is here to assist with any of your estate planning needs, including probate. Contact us today and let our knowledgeable and experienced team help you through these challenging circumstances.

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