The word probate does not have good connotations for many South Carolina residents. But much of the bad feelings are the result of a lack of understanding regarding the process. A complete understanding of the probate process will eliminate most of these negative thoughts. This understanding will also allow individuals to take a course of action that is best for themselves and the people they care about the most.
What is probate
The probate process allows for assets owned by a decedent to become the property of their heirs in accordance with a will. The court oversees the process, which can take quite a bit of time.
When is probate court necessary
A deceased person’s estate can go through probate with or without a will left behind. The determining factor is the existence of assets that are subject to the probate process.
A family member or some other person will need to open an estate for a deceased person who owned real estate or personal property worth $25,000 or more. Probate for what South Carolina terms a “small estate” is necessary if the total value is worth less than $25,000.
Some decedents need an estate opened on their behalf even if they owned no property at the time of death. This step becomes necessary when legal actions like wrongful death or medical malpractice lawsuits are ongoing in which the decedent was or would have been a the plaintiff.
The probate process
The first step necessary to initiate the probate process is delivering the will prepared by the testator to a probate judge. The judge will then appoint a personal representative for the estate. This time in the process is when heirs complaining of misrepresentation can present their dispute to the court.
The inventory and appraisal of the estate must become complete within 90 days of the estate’s opening. The estate must then settle all outstanding debt, applicable taxes, and other expenses. The money remaining is then distributed amongst recognized heirs. The personal representative will need to file several documents to receive a certificate of discharge. This certificate will closeout the estate.
Probate and other estate administration issues involve rules and regulations that can become complicated to navigate alone. Individuals with questions regarding any part of the process may benefit from speaking with an attorney.