Probate Litigation Attorney

If a loved one passes away, you should quickly and effectively administer their final affairs in a South Carolina probate court. When disputes arise with how to handle property within an estate, a probate attorney is commonly retained to assist with probate administration.

Columbia probate lawyers can ensure that the process does not result in surprising outcomes as to property distribution, and the family members disperse parts of the estate according to the intent of the deceased. Individuals in need of assistance in the probate process should seek attorneys in Columbia practicing within a probate law firm with the knowledge to understand the often complicated and emotionally charged problems that arise from probate estates.

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Understanding the South Carolina Probate Process

Probate Court is where the court oversees the what happens with a person’s estate after their passing. The court’s role in the process is dictated and outlined in The South Carolina Probate Code. The Probate Code dictates that courts have oversight of legal disputes concerning the affairs of minors, protected persons, incapacitated persons, missing persons, and decedents. Probate Courts follow the law to determine the intention and put into action the decendent’s wishes in regards to the distribution of the estate’s assets. Lastly, probate works to oversee the process of liquidating the estate of the decedent and making a distribution to his successors.

Usually, probate courts will appoint an executor to distribute the estate’s assets. The court will also ensure proper administration of the Will and prevent wrongdoing by overseeing the executor.

South Carolina probate courts also adjudicates the validity of Wills (determines if a Will is valid and those in the Will follow the terms). Consequently, when a decedent dies, a probate court adjudicates the validity of the Will and the interpretation of the Will’s terms. They also oversee creditor claims against the assets of the estate and apply succession rules dictated by law.

Finally, a South Carolina probate court adjudicates anyone contesting against the interpretation and validity of the Will and oversees creditor claims against the estate.

What Services Does a Columbia Probate Lawyer Offer?

If an estate requires administration by a South Carolina probate court, a Columbia probate attorney can offer guidance in several areas.

South Carolina Probate Planning and Guidance

Often, a well-drafted will is left behind when a person passes away. A Will contains explicit directions regarding how to distribute the estate. In this case, a Columbia probate attorney files a petition with the court to admit a decedent’s Will to probate.  After you file a petition, an executor is appointed by the court, which grants the power to oversee the estate’s affairs.

Under the best-case scenario, the Columbia probate lawyer and the executor will distribute estate assets without dispute or delay. However, in circumstances that the decedent dies intestate (without a Will), a Will’s language/intent is unclear, or if there are contested claims to the estate from beneficiaries or creditors, a Columbia probate lawyer may need to take on a more engaged role protecting estate assets.

South Carolina Probate Litigation

Under the best-case scenario, little or no conflicts occur as to the distribution of assets to successors and beneficiaries. Nevertheless, there are conditions where an interested party noted in the Will or a financial institution looks for to object to the administration of the Will. In this situation, a party seeking to contest the administration of a Will can dispute or challenge the Will. Will contests arise when someone presents a claim to the South Carolina probate court stating improper administration of the Will.

Advising the Estate Executor or Personal Representative

A Columbia probate attorney often provides legal guidance to an estate’s personal representative.  Additionally, a Columbia probate attorney may be responsible for performing any of the following tasks when advising an executor: managing life insurance proceeds, creating an inventory of the decedent’s assets; finding lost estate assets; securing an appraisal of estate assets; handling creditor claims; managing the estate’s financial accounts; ensuring taxes are paid and preparing and filing any required paperwork and public notices to heirs and beneficiaries with the probate court.

Avoiding Probate in South Carolina

One of the significant considerations in estate planning involves making sure an individual’s estate is not placed in probate. The two main reasons for avoiding probate relate to cost and time. An estate administered by a probate court will take longer due to the legal formalities of the process and cost more due to court fees and legal costs.

These expenditures are paid from the estate and will lessen the value of the estate left over for heirs. In addition to the fees related to probate, probating an estate can cause results that are not completely in accordance with a testator’s intent. As a result, estate planners try to utilize tools that avoid probate.

Probate property consists of all estate assets that go through a Will or intestacy. Anything not subject to a Will or intestacy is called a non-probate property. (Property in joint occupancy, life insurance policy, payable at death accounts, and Inter Vivos Trusts.)

Probate is not always required. For example, the following list outlines some of the more common assets not subject to probate: certain types of real estate property, Trusts, insurance, and retirement accounts with a named beneficiary; pension plans; assets whose ownership are payable-on-death or transferrable-on-death; and small estates under a set valuation.

In cases where the decedent died without a Will, also known as intestate, or where someone either contests how to distribute or has claim to the decedent’s assets probate court’s involvement is required.

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Call a Columbia Probate Attorney Today

A Columbia probate attorney experienced in guiding estate planning, and the probate process can provide valuable advice regarding what to expect from the probate process and how best to protect estate assets. Our practice can help you with all aspects of South Carolina probate administration law. Contact our Columbia office today at 803.768.4800 to discuss how we can assist with your needs.

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