Probate is the legal court process of settling the estate of the deceased. Probating a loved one’s estate involves many complex steps to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are properly fulfilled and the title of the property passes to the proper heirs. The purpose of probate is to prevent fraud after someone’s death.
The probate process differs depending on whether the deceased person died with or without a will. Every case is different, based on the unique circumstances of the deceased person’s assets, liabilities, and estate plan. Because of this, probate requires a knowledgeable approach for proper administration. If you have been appointed as the executor/personal representative or need to be appointed as such in a required probate, our attorney and team are here to guide you through the process.
The probate process is done to settle the deceased person’s estate under the supervision of the court. If the deceased person died with a will, the first step is to deliver the will to the probate court. The will can then be verified by the court and the estate will be handled according to the will instructions. If the person died without a will, the estate will be settled according to South Carolina inheritance law as determined by the court.
Only assets subject to probate will be handled in probate. These assets can include:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Personal belongings, such as jewelry, art, collectibles, furniture, and more
- Interests in businesses, such as through partnerships or corporations
- Life insurance policies that are not listed as payable upon death
- Any other valuables owned by the deceased person
Some assets will not need to go through probate, such as accounts with a named beneficiary, including retirement accounts and insurance policies, assets held in trusts, pension plans, and anything designated transfer-on-death or payable-on-death.
The probate process has many steps as follows:
- Locate and collect all assets belonging to the deceased person, and identify any debts or obligations that are associated with these assets
- Determine who is legally responsible for managing the estate, known as an executor or personal representative
- Open an estate account and deposit all assets into it
- Notify creditors of the deceased’s death
- Publish notice of probate proceedings to potential beneficiaries
- Appraise estate property as necessary according to state law
- Collect due taxes on behalf of the deceased from government agencies such as Social Security, IRS, Veteran Affairs, etc.
- Pay off any debts and obligations that are associated with estate property
- Distribute remaining assets according to will or via intestacy laws (when no will exists)
- Close all accounts opened during the probate process
As you can see, the probate process can be complicated and lengthy. As the appointed administrator of this process, you will be required to complete all steps according to the law while acting in the best interests of the heirs and beneficiaries.
At Jeff Johnson Law, we are here to walk you through the process and help you complete all the steps. You can depend on thorough, competent, and caring legal assistance from start to finish.