Probate court is where wills are double-checked for validity in South Carolina. The assets and debt are totaled, and the assets are used to pay off any outstanding debts. Then, the remaining assets are passed to the designated beneficiaries. This process can take up to a year when there are problems with the will or there is no will at all. In many cases, probate court can be avoided all together. Here is how.
It may sound extreme, but one way to avoid probate court is to get rid of all assets before passing away. A home, vehicles and bank accounts can all be transferred to the beneficiaries before the individual passes away. There are also trusts that can be set up during estate planning to hold the assets while the individual is still alive. Then, once they pass, the assets are officially transferred. Joint ownership also helps an estate avoid probate court. Right of ownership simply needs to be added to the accounts.
A revocable living trust, for example, covers the individual until they pass away or become mentally incapacitated. Utilizing beneficiary designations is another helpful tool. This is often used on life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts.
There are several estate planning tools available to individuals. Each has its own set of pros and cons and accomplishes specific goals depending on the individual’s circumstances. For many, the goal is to avoid probate court and to minimize their estate taxes. An estate does not have to be large in order to benefit from the planning process; when there are minor children and a surviving spouse, it helps to set up some basic documents. To find out how to avoid probate court and the tools that are best for an individual, it may be beneficial to speak with an estate planning legal professional.