In South Carolina, probate courts exist to ensure that the estate of someone who passes away settles its debts and taxes. Additionally, probate confirms that beneficiaries named in a will receive the assets or other property as dictated by the deceased. During the process, most of the administrative works falls on the shoulders of the person named as the executor or personal representative of the estate.
Duties of an executor
A will usually names an executor. If it does not name someone, or that person is no longer available, a probate court judge appoints an administrator, as will be the case for estates that had no will at all.
When a will exists, the executor or administrator will:
- File the will and death certificate with the applicable probate court
- Receive letters of testamentary that allow the person to handle the estate’s assets
- Acquire a probate bond, if required
- Notify creditors and beneficiaries
- Appraise property
- Pay taxes and funeral bills
- Settle debts with estate funds
- Distribute assets to heirs
- Prepare a final accounting report and close the estate
Throughout these steps, the court confirms that creditors and tax agencies receive payment prior to the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
Issues that can delay probate
An early hurdle that a will must get over is the authentication process. The court will inspect a will for validity. Any probate protests or disputes at this stage could tie up the estate for additional months or even years.
If two or more versions of a will emerge, potential heirs could question if the will was signed by someone of sound mind or point out problems with the signatures of witnesses. Situations like these normally lead to litigation.