Who Is Considered an Heir in South Carolina?

13 Jan, 2024

On Behalf of Mack & Mack Attorneys | probate administration

Each individual estate has its own unique set of assets. All of them require personalized planning should the owner of the estate pass away. In addition, each state has its own set of unique inheritance laws, and South Carolina is no different. If you’re making preparations for your estate before you pass and need personalized guidance for your individual situation, consult with a trusted South Carolina estate planning attorney to ensure a comprehensive solution tailored for you.

Having a thorough understanding of exactly who is considered an heir and how that relates to your individual estate involves an intimate knowledge of estate planning law. When one begins an estate plan, it is critical to first know who is considered an heir according to the state of South Carolina.

In general, there can be a number of living heirs entitled to inherit from a relative once that person is deceased. This includes:

  • The spouse of the deceased
  • Any biological and adopted children
  • Grandchildren
  • The parents of the deceased
  • Siblings

The line of succession will then continue with any nieces, nephews, grandparents, and cousins. An heir can also include anyone who is specifically named as a beneficiary in your written will and testament.

Are There Inheritance Taxes in South Carolina?

South Carolina does not enforce an inheritance or estate tax on the beneficiaries after a relative has passed away. They are one of the 38 states in the U.S. that do not currently have an inheritance or estate tax. However, it is important to know that federal estate tax can still apply to large estates that exceed a certain threshold. If you’re unsure of how your estate qualifies, consult an experienced York estate planning attorney to help you navigate the various legal intricacies relevant to your particular estate.

What Happens If You Die With a Will?

Of course, it’s always better to have a valid will and testament at the time of your passing than not to have one. This is called dying testate. The major benefit of possessing a valid will is that it gives you control over how your estate will be distributed amongst your heirs after your passing.

For a living will and testament to be legally valid in South Carolina, it must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be of sound mind and at least 18 years of age.
  • It must be in writing and name a beneficiary.
  • It must be signed by yourself (the testator) and two witnesses.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

If you pass away without a will and testament in South Carolina, your estate then becomes subject to the state’s intestate succession laws, which means that your estate will have to go through probate. In most probate cases, your estate will be passed on to your closest living relatives or heirs (typically your living spouse and/or children).

This seems relatively straightforward, but not all assets will go through probate. Living trusts, life insurance policies, jointly owned property, joint bank accounts, and retirement accounts are just a few assets that would not be subject to South Carolina’s intestate succession laws, so probate is not an all-encompassing policy in these matters.


Q: Who Are the Heirs in South Carolina?

A: In South Carolina, the heirs of a descendant can include a variety of individuals, such as:

  • The spouse of the deceased
  • Their biological and adopted children
  • The descendant’s grandchildren
  • The parents of the deceased
  • Any siblings they have
  • Nieces
  • Nephews
  • Grandparents
  • Cousins
  • Any individual explicitly included in a will and testament

Q: What Are the Inheritance Laws in South Carolina?

A: Overall, the South Carolina inheritance laws are fairly simple. If you were to die without a legitimate will and testament, then your entire estate would be passed to your spouse (if you have no children). If you do have children, but no spouse, then all of your estate would be passed on to your children in equal shares. However, if you have children and a living spouse, then half of your estate would go to your spouse, and the other half would be split evenly amongst your living children.

Q: What Is a Petition to Determine Heirs in South Carolina?

A: The South Carolina state court is required by law to hold an official hearing to accurately determine the heirs of the deceased at the time of their passing. This must take place if it has been more than ten years since the descendants’ passing and the living heirs have not already been determined through probate. Before the court is allowed to hold this hearing, someone (usually a spouse or child of the deceased) must petition the court, bringing forth the family heirs and their appropriate status in relation to the deceased.

Q: How Does Heirs Property Work in South Carolina?

A: Heirs property (commonly referred to as “family land”) is inherited property that’s ownership was transferred to multiple family members after the passing of a relative. This usually occurs when someone passes without a will, and ownership of the property is divided up between the children and/or spouse of the deceased. In legal terms, the heirs own the property as “tenants in common,” meaning that they each own an equal interest in the undivided land, as opposed to an individual piece of the total land.

Contact Mack & Mack Attorneys

Serving South Carolina families since 1960, Mack & Mack Attorneys can help you build a personalized estate plan to ensure that your wishes are met to the extent of the law. As in any state, South Carolina has its own unique set of inheritance laws. These must be thoroughly understood when it comes time to prepare the desired transition of your individual estate, identify your rightful heirs, and write a valid will and testament.

Consulting with a trusted South Carolina estate planning attorney with decades of estate planning and probate experience can help provide you with the detailed knowledge required to confidently put forth a comprehensive plan that gives you the control that you desire. We work to ensure that your lasting wishes are met and your loved ones are taken care of after the time of your passing.

Talk to an Experienced Attorney Today