Before a person dies, they may take steps to prepare for what happens to their assets. This is most often done by the creation of a will, ideally with the help of a South Carolina probate lawyer. However, there may be times when a person passes and has not left instructions for how their assets are to be distributed among heirs or beneficiaries. With or without a will, when a person dies, their estate must be processed through probate, which is the legal settlement of a person’s estate.
While the process can be confusing, understanding how to navigate it and what documents you will need to prepare for it can help ensure that your loved one’s wishes are executed properly. Our Fort Mill Probate Administration Lawyer can help it make sense.
The probate process is designed to ensure that a person’s final wishes regarding their assets are carried out. Probate validates any final will that may have been left and addresses the outstanding debts or taxes that the person may be responsible for. Then, the process will work to distribute the remaining assets, either according to the will or to intestate law.
The purpose of the probate process is to ensure that the assets are properly distributed, instead of allowing a “free-for-all” for a deceased family member’s belongings. It organizes end-of-life procedures, such as preparing a death certificate, ensuring that funeral arrangements are done correctly, and settling any estate taxes or debts.
The process for probate is done in several steps. First, the court will be contacted, and a personal representative will be appointed. Then, a will, if it exists, will be submitted, along with an inventory and valuation of all assets. Once the court verifies this information and the beneficiaries have had an opportunity to review it, creditors and taxes will be paid. After that, the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
The personal representative, also known as an executor, is named to oversee the dissemination process. They are responsible for:
These are just a few of the responsibilities that the personal representative is charged with. This is by no means a comprehensive list.
To initiate the probate process, you will need to produce several documents to confirm that the process can move forward. These documents include the original death certificate, the original will if it was created, and the names and contact information for all family members, regardless if they are named in the will.
Several forms must be completed during the probate process. These documents are to ensure that:
These necessities, among others, are all part of the following documentation:
These forms, among others, should be properly filed with the court. While some personal representatives choose to approach this process on their own, the importance of these forms means that an attorney should help with their preparation and filing. If the forms and documentation are not submitted correctly, the probate process could be extended as heirs or beneficiaries challenge the validity of the will, contest the process, or assert their right to certain assets.
A: The first step is to ensure that all the necessary documents are accounted for and submitted. Once the filing happens, the opening of the estate could take up to three weeks. Once the estate is opened, there are several forms that must be submitted and notifications that need to be sent out. Those notifications will need time to receive a response, leaving the full process taking anywhere from 8 months to a year.
A: Probate does not have to include all assets, but there are certain ones that must be involved in the process. These assets include:
A: While much of the probate process can be done independently of an attorney, it is always recommended to seek the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. They can help ensure that forms are filed correctly and that you can defend against any challenges to the estate. The same is true if you wish to challenge the estate of a loved one that is in the probate process.
A: If the total estate that must go through the probate process totals less than $25,000, then a petition can be filed, asking the court to make a summary ruling on the administration of the estate. Under this simplified process, the value of the property left by the deceased is totaled, with liens and encumbrances subtracted. The court will then make a ruling on how the assets will be divided.
The probate process can be difficult and confusing, particularly if you are unsure about what documentation is needed and the many deadlines that must be met. While you may have many questions about the process, the team at Mack & Mack Attorneys can help you with the answers. Contact our team today and let us help you with your probate needs.