Estate Planning can be an overwhelming and morbid task but is an important part of life. Ensuring that your affairs are in order can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Each person’s estate planning experience will look different based on their needs and their family’s needs. The most basic estate planning experience, but one of the most important, is drafting and executing a last will and testament. There are several positions to be named in a will: the beneficiaries, the executor (or personal representative), and if there are minor children involved, a guardian.
The people named in the will to inherit your property upon your passing are your beneficiaries. Typically, wills contain primary and secondary beneficiaries. The primary beneficiaries are those who are first in line to inherit the property, and secondary beneficiaries are those who inherit the property if the primary beneficiaries have also passed away or have otherwise become ineligible to inherit the property. You may also have third and fourth beneficiaries if you like.
The executor of your will, often called the personal representative, is the person who will be in charge of your estate upon your passing. The executor manages the property until all debts and taxes have been paid, and then oversees the distribution of the property to the beneficiaries. If you have minor children, you can make arrangements for their care upon your passing. You can appoint a guardian for your children who will be granted legal custody of the children upon your passing. However, if only one parent passes, custody will automatically be awarded to the other parent unless that parent no longer has parental rights or is deemed unfit to care for the children.
In the will, you will list how you would like your personnel and real property to be distributed. These distributions can be specific and individualized based on the item or can be distributed in a blanket statement, such as “all of my personal property shall go to my eldest son Bobby” or “all of my personal property will be distributed equally between my two daughters Shelly and Jane”. People who want to make specific designations for only some items will often do a mixture of both techniques, where they list certain items to be distributed to certain people and then do a blanket statement for the rest. This flexibility in distribution allows each person to tailor their will to their needs and desires.
Several criteria must be met for a will to become valid. The person making the will must be 18 years old, married, or an emancipated minor. The person must also be of sound mind according to S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-501. The will must be signed by the person making the will in front of two witnesses. South Carolina does not require that the will be notarized to be valid unless you want your will to be self-executing. A self-executing will is a will that has been signed by the person making the will, two witnesses, and signed by a notary. The person making the will and the two witnesses must sign an affidavit in front of the notary. An affidavit is a sworn statement that can be used in court proceedings and having one for a will can prevent the need for witnesses to come before the court to testify that the will is valid.
To get started on your estate planning journey, contact King Law Offices at 888-748-KING (5464). Our knowledgeable team is here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring that your estate plan reflects your wishes and provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.