When a person dies with a will, that document names a personal representative to execute the deceased person’s estate. Perhaps you knew ahead of time that your loved one named you as the personal representative, or perhaps you only discovered the fact after their death. Either way, you probably have many questions regarding what to do next.
Gathering the documents you need
In order to begin the probate process, you will need to have the probate court legally appoint you as the personal representative in order to give you the authority to carry out your duties. The court will request certain documents from you, such as the original copy of the will, a certified death certificate and a list of all heirs. You must file the will with the court within 30 days of the death. You should also try to locate all important documents regarding the decedent’s assets.
This is the point at which most people hire a probate attorney to help with the process. Although you are not required to hire an attorney in South Carolina, the probate process is not simple and if any complications arise, you will end up needing one, anyway. Your attorney will help you gather all the information you need to open the probate case with the court and start administering the estate. An attorney can also advise you if a probate is not necessary.
Your duties as the personal representative
You are now a representative of the estate and you have certain legal duties you must perform. Your main tasks will involve sending notices to the other heirs or beneficiaries, as well as any creditors the decedent may have owed money to, and creating an inventory of all assets and debts in the estate. Your attorney will help you understand which creditors you must pay, whether any taxes are due, which assets you can sell and how to create a proper accounting of these items for the court and the interested parties.
Only after you have paid debts and liquidated all of the assets are you ready to distribute the remainder of the estate to the heirs. Many people are surprised to learn that the full probate process takes a minimum of eight months in South Carolina. While it takes time and effort, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you fulfilled your loved one’s final wishes.