October 13, 2016
Dying is a reality for everyone but something that few want to think about. It is never easy on family and friends when a loved one passes away. It is important to think about how your affairs will be handled when you pass away. Planning for your death and the legal aspects that come along with it are important. Making your intentions clear and having legal documents in place makes things easier on your loved ones and reduces the chance of family members fighting over your property when you pass away..
One of the concepts of property law in South Carolina and the United States is that people have a somewhat limited right to continue control their property after they die. A will is the legal document used to express your intent of how your property will pass at your death. However, if you’ve dealt with the will of a family member or friend, you know that the administration of an estate can be a tedious and time-consuming process. Our Greer, South Carolina attorneys and our Gaffney, South Carolina attorneys can discuss with you your specific situation and assist in crafting a will or other estate planning document to make the process as simple as possible and achieve your wishes.
There is no one size fits all but there are some general guidelines that help make the process clearer, simpler, and more efficient.
One, think about who you want to get your property after you pass away. Generally, most people leave all of their assets to their spouse or to their children. However, you can leave specific items to specific people or organizations such as churches, charities, schools, etc. Essentially, there is little limit on how you can divide your property upon your death.
Two, think about who you want to be the executor of your estate. The executor or personal representative will be the person who works with the probate court to complete the estate process and distribute the property under the terms of the will. Generally, people name their spouse or their children but it can be anyone you choose. It is important to choose someone you trust to carry out your wishes.
Three, if you have minor children, think about who you would want to be the guardians of your children if both parents pass away before a child reaches the age of 18. You can name the proposed guardians in your will. In the event you pass away, the courts will have to ensure whoever you name is a fit person to care for the kids but generally try to honor your wishes.
Four, the administration of an estate is a slow process with lots of paperwork to “show your work”, so that anyone who may be a beneficiary or an heir can see what exactly what property went where and why. Keep in mind, however, that the only things that get distributed through the estate are items that are considered “probate assets.” There are many “non-probate assets” that can be distributed outright, either before or at death, and not through your will or estate. Examples of “non-probate assets” are life insurance, joint bank accounts, and in some situations, real estate that is jointly owned. You can contact the companies you do business with for these types of assets, and you can set up the beneficiary to be who you want that money to go to when you pass away. Generally, vehicles and most real property will go through the probate estate process unless they are titled to a trust.
It is never too early to being thinking about your estate and the steps you can take to make things as easy as possible on your family members. When you are ready, contact our office for a free consultation with one of our Greer, South Carolina attorneys or one of our Gaffney, South Carolina attorneys.