Not having a will upon your death, or dying intestate, doesn’t mean that the state can take your property when you die. It could, however, cause a lot of complications and headaches when your surviving family is administering and managing your estate. By law, your family will receive your property even if you did not leave a will. But having a valid will would make the process less costly and easier for your family.
With that said, whether you have a will or not, most estates have to go through the probate process. In South Carolina, the probate process for a regular estate takes about a year to complete, provided that you file all the required documents on time. The law likewise requires that estates must stay open for eight months (or one year from date of death, whichever is earlier) to allow creditors to file claims. Upon the expiration of this claims period and resolution of any claims against the estate, you can then start closing the state.
Other Factors That Could Impact the Probate Process Timeline
A couple of factors might also determine how long the probate process could take, such as the following, among others:
- The Estate’s Personal Representative: The Personal Representative (AKA, executor) is responsible for handling the probate process. Therefore, the decedent’s designated Personal Representative (or the appointed Personal Representative by the Court, if there’s no will or a designated Personal Representative) could directly affect how smooth and long the probate process would be.
- Assets: Generally speaking, the more valuable, complex, and numerous the decedent’s assets, the longer it will take to probate the estate.
- Intestate Estate: If the estate is intestate (the decedent died without leaving a valid will), the probate process will be longer and more complicated for a couple of reasons. The court would need to appoint a Personal Representative, and that person might not be familiar with the estate, which makes locating assets more difficult. Likewise, the Personal Representative would need to determine and locate the heirs to the estate.
- Liquidity: Assets might have to be sold to fulfill bequests or pay off creditors if the estate isn’t liquid. The sales process could extend the entire probate process by several months or even years.
- Litigation: The probate process could be extended for months to years if the will becomes contested or if a creditor dispute can only be resolved through litigation.
Probate Shortcut for Small Estates
South Carolina allows for a shorter process for small estates. The small estate probate shortcut is strictly for estates with no real property, and the decedent’s personal belongings are not worth more than $25,000. Additionally, small estates can only be opened after 30 days following the death of the deceased.
Consult with a Skilled Columbia, SC Probate Lawyer Now
Although proper estate planning could eliminate a lot of the hassles that are common in the probate process, there’s simply no going around the court’s requirements and the approximate timeline for probating an estate.
That being said, working with an experienced Columbia, SC, probate lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the probate process in South Carolina will ensure that you get all the requirements right and don’t run into any delays. Reach out to Parker Law, LLC today to schedule your free case review with our Columbia, SC, probate lawyer by completing our online contact form or calling 803-918-5424.
Probate Process FAQ
What exactly is probate?
The probate process entails settling an estate by paying off the estate’s debts and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. There are, of course, many things to be done, but this is probate in a nutshell.
Is it possible to avoid probate?
In some situations, you could craft an estate plan that circumvents the probate process. A skilled Columbia, SC, probate lawyer could determine the best options that apply to your estate.
Do I need a probate lawyer?
If you’re going through the probate process and don’t know what you’re doing, you could definitely benefit from consulting a probate lawyer. Your lawyer can likewise determine if there or more efficient ways to administer the estate.