Chester Probate Attorney

Chester Probate Attorney

Chester Probate Lawyer

The idea of informing people of a loved one’s death, planning a funeral, and sorting through all of their things can feel impossible while you are grieving. A skilled probate attorney from Mack & Mack Attorneys understands that your probate experience is unique because every estate is different. When you work with our team, we will be ready to guide you through every step of probate in Chester, SC.

Estate Planning in South Carolina

Your family will likely feel overwhelmed in the wake of your passing, but estate planning allows you to help them by:

  • Assigning assets, like your favorite car, to specific people
  • Naming an executor to carry out your wishes
  • Choose someone to take custody of your minor children

Establishing a trust to hold your assets or writing a will are the most common estate planning tools.

Chester Probate Attorney


If you have specific things you want done at the end of your life, you can make your wishes known with a will. This document allows you to: 

  • Name a charitable organization that will receive your assets.
  • Determine who would take custody of your young children if you die unexpectedly.
  • Select someone to carry out your wishes as detailed in the will.

A valid will must be created by someone who:

  • Is over 18
  • Is mentally sound
  • Has two witnesses to sign the document with them

Creating a will does create an additional layer of protection, but it will have to be processed through the probate courts.


While a will gives you the opportunity to outline your wishes for the end of your life, a trust creates an entirely new legal entity that will control any assets placed into it. In order to put assets, like stocks or investment portfolios, you will have to put them in the ownership of the trust and under the management of your trustee. When you create a trust, it helps your loved ones avoid probate court and could also protect your assets from debt collectors.

The specifics of trusts can be complicated. For instance, it can be difficult to know what to do if you want to pass your cars to a grandchild or make sure your son is able to take over a family business. That’s why a skilled estate planning attorney is so crucial. They can help you:

  • Determine what meets your needs
  • Create the will or trust that is right for you
  • Explain your estate plan to your family

Creating an Estate Plan

Customizing your estate plan is simple, whether you need to establish a power of attorney or establish a full trust for your children. Depending on what you need, there are several key things you will need to do when you create your estate plan.  

  • Select Healthcare Representatives: You may be incapacitated by a car accident or an illness at some point in your life. In preparation for that, you could name your child as a healthcare representative, so they will make all medical decisions for you.
  • Select Financial Representatives: As you age, it can be difficult to make financial decisions for yourself, especially if you deal with an illness like dementia. You may want your spouse or children to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated, so you will name them as your financial representative.
  • Create a List of All Assets: Your list of assets should include vacation homes, business assets, antiques, jewelry, furniture, investments, and anything you own that is valuable. To create an effective estate plan, it is important to make your list as detailed as possible.
  • Choose Your Beneficiaries: When you are planning for the end of your life, you will have to decide who will receive your various assets, considered beneficiaries. You can select a single person to receive everything or divide your estate between several people. If, for example, you have several children or grandchildren, you may choose to leave certain assets to each one.
  • Select an Estate Planning Tool: This is likely the most important step of the entire process. There are many opportunities for estate planning that will help you protect and divide your assets, including living wills, irrevocable trusts, and plans for power of attorney. You will need to determine which tool will most meet your needs and finalize all the documentation.

Once your estate plan is in place, it will become valid when you pass away unless you have created a living will that you control during your life. When you die, your family will most likely have to deal with probate in order to close your estate.

What Is Probate?

When someone dies, there is a legal process that must be followed to divide their estate. Your family will have to work with probate court through this process so your debts can be paid and your assets divided. The experience with probate will be different if you created a will because that gives your loved ones more control.

The estate of someone who died without a will has to be managed entirely by a representative of the court, with little input from the family. The division of this estate will be subject to the intestate succession laws in South Carolina. If someone has a will in place when they die, their loved ones will still have to petition to open the estate and work through probate, but the deceased had the opportunity to name an executor to manage everything.

South Carolina Intestate Succession Laws

Many people either do not plan for the end of their life or die unexpectedly without the time or resources to create a solid estate plan. In these circumstances, the probate court will assign a representative when the estate is opened. This person is responsible for:

  1. Compiling a list of all assets
  2. Establishing their value
  3. Dividing them according to South Carolina law

The laws that govern this process are called intestate succession laws.

When these laws are used, who the deceased’s relatives are become the primary factor that determines how assets are divided. There is a strict hierarchy of asset division based on what family is available. If someone has living children but their spouse has died, for example, their children will inherit their entire estate. An individual who dies with a living spouse and descendants, however, will have half of their estate given to their spouse and the rest to their descendants. If someone dies with a valid will in place, their family will be able to handle the probate process with the assistance of the named personal representative and an accomplished probate administration attorney.

The Probate Court Process With a Will

The process of settling an estate for someone who has a will in place is similar to the overall probate process. The general steps include: 

  • Petitioning the courts to open the estate
  • Creating an inventory of all the deceased’s assets
  • Determining what liabilities exist for the estate, including loans and debts that must be paid
  • Distributing assets according to the wishes set forth in the will

Settling an estate through probate is a fairly simple process, but even the simplest things can be challenging when you are grieving your spouse’s death. The team at Mack & Mack Attorneys can assist you with probate administration whether you have questions about:

  • What you will receive as a beneficiary
  • The necessary steps to open an estate in probate
  • How to complete the process most effectively

They can also provide insight into how you can create an estate plan that helps your family avoid probate altogether.

How Trusts Can Prevent Probate

When a loved one dies, it is challenging under any circumstance, but adding the additional stress of navigating probate court can feel impossible under the weight of your grief. The hassle and frustration of probate can be avoided if you establish a trust in South Carolina because all of those assets are already owned by the trust. The most common type of trust in South Carolina is a living trust, which is a legal body that takes full ownership of any assets that are put in it. A living trust can protect your family from having to deal with probate.

You may be concerned that even in this situation, your assets won’t be used in a way you’d like. In this situation, you can choose a revocable trust. A revocable trust is contingent on the beneficiary using the assets in a way that you’d approve of. These can be important for money designated for college or trade school. An irrevocable trust has not such contingencies, and beneficiaries can use it however they want.

For any trust you create, you must designate a trustee who will hold the title for all the assets in the trust, check on them regularly to be sure they are in the proper condition, and pass them to the beneficiary. In addition to securing assets for your family, trusts also let your loved ones bypass the probate process and can keep assets from being used to pay off debts.

Let Mack & Mack Attorneys Guide You Through Probate

The loss of a loved one is always difficult, and facing the legal system while facing your grief can be overwhelming. It is important to have personalized legal guidance to help make the probate process as easy as possible. Mack & Mack Attorneys can work with you whether you are a personal representative or executor, a beneficiary, or simply need assistance to complete the probate process for a deceased loved one. Contact our office today for all your probate needs.


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