In South Carolina, you need a Last Will and Testament or other estate planning documents, such as a trust, to ensure that your property passes pursuant to your wishes. With a will, you can determine who you want to leave your property to, such as family members, friends, churches, charities, etc. and what their respective shares of your property will be.
If you die without a will, which is referred to as dying intestate, the people who inherit your property are determined according to South Carolina intestacy law and are your next of kin. If you die survived by a spouse, but have no children, your spouse inherits 100% of your estate. If you die survived by a spouse and children, your spouse gets 50% of your estate and your children get and divide 50% of your estate in equal shares. If you are unmarried and are survived by children, your children receive and divide 100% of your estate. If you are unmarried and have no children, your parents, or the survivor of them, receives 100% of your estate. If your parents died before you, then your siblings receive and divide 100% of your estate.
Regarding the above distribution, if one of your children dies before you, your deceased child’s children (your grandchildren) who survive you would share equally in the deceased child’s share.
Even if you die without a will, not every asset is governed by the South Carolina intestacy statute. For instance, if you have life insurance with a named beneficiary, the life insurance proceeds would be distributed to the person or persons you named as beneficiary. Also, any asset you own as joint tenants with right of survivorship would pass to the surviving joint tenant/co-owner.
As a general rule, if you wish to leave your property in a way other than as provided by the intestacy statute of South Carolina, then it is important that you have a Last Will and Testament in place before you die.
*This is a very basic breakdown and is not an exhaustive explanation of intestacy law. It refers mostly to the probate/intestate estate and does not address non-probate assets. There are exceptions, such as when the decedent has a trust and the property passes pursuant to the provisions of the trust. Property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship is also an exception to the intestacy distribution. Property that passes to a beneficiary, such as life insurance or annuities, are also exceptions.
If you would like to assure that your estate is distributed as per your wishes, contact us today and let us help you make sure that the proper planning is in place. Complete the form below to request a complimentary, confidential consultation.