South Carolina Probate Process

After a loved one passes, you may ask yourself several questions about the Probate process.  

Am I required to go through the Probate Court in order to distribute the Decedent’s estate?

Yes. Whether a person had a will or not, the estate must be administered through the South Carolina Probate Court. 

What does the Probate Court do? Why is it important to go through the Probate Court?

The role of probate is to;

1) establish deadlines for anyone who wants to make a claim for the Decedent’s assets;

2) ensure the Decedent’s debts are paid;

3) oversee that the Decedent’s assets are allocated to the correct beneficiaries;

4) to give the authority to the Personal Representative to transfer such assets. 

What happens if I do not go through Probate Court?

Without an open Probate estate, no one has the authority to transfer or sell the Decedent’s sole property.  Additionally, if you do not go through Probate Court, you risk distributing the Decedent’s assets before all individuals have the right to make a claim—leaving you responsible for resolving unpaid debts.  The Probate Court will establish deadlines for creditors and beneficiaries to make claims, and you will be more secure in distributing assets after the deadline passes. 

How do I start the Probate process?

First: Once you or a decedent’s family member receives a Death Certificate, deliver it to the Probate Court in the county where the Decedent lived. If a Will existed, the Will should also be taken to Probate Court. The Probate Clerk will help guide you through this process and tell you when you need to deliver these documents.

Next, The Probate Court will appoint a Personal Representative according to the Will or intestate laws, and this person will work with the Probate Clerk on when and how to distribute the Decedent’s assets.  Most importantly, do not start to give away the Decedent’s assets until you discuss the estate with the Probate Clerk.  

How long will the Probate process take?

The answer depends on the size and complexity of the estate. The Probate process could be as short as two months or last from nine months to a year or more.  

Do I need a lawyer to go through the Probate process?

A lawyer is required for some aspects of probate if the estate contains certain assets, such as real estate transactions and drafting a deed of distribution.  If the estate does not have assets requiring an attorney to distribute, you can go through the Probate process on your own.  However, hiring an attorney who is familiar with the probate process may save you time and confusion.  

Probate can be intimidating and uncertain, but it does not have to be. To learn more about probate matters, contact the experienced attorneys at Hyde Law Firm, P.A., at 864-804-6330.