South Carolina law requires last wills and testaments to be in writing and signed by the testator and two witnesses. The witnesses must have either seen the will signed or been assured by the testator that the signature on the document is genuine. If the testator is not able to sign their name due to illiteracy or some sort of medical condition, they can ask somebody else to sign the document for them. However, the testator must make this request in the presence of the witnesses.
Witnesses should be disinterested
The estate planning law does not specify who the witnesses should be, but it is generally a good idea for testators to select individuals who are not also beneficiaries, as this kind of conflict of interest could lead to the will being contested during probate. When a beneficiary does witness a will signing, the part of the document dealing with their inheritance is void unless a further two disinterested individuals witnessed the signing. It is also prudent to choose witnesses who will likely be available to validate the document when it is probated.
An exception to the two witness rule
There is one notable exception to the rule stating that wills in South Carolina must be witnessed by two people. This exception is made when a South Carolina resident drafted their will when they lived in another state where witnesses are not required. An exception is also made for holographic wills drafted in one of the 24 states that recognize handwritten estate planning documents. However, it could be challenging to establish that a holographic will that was not signed in front of witnesses is valid.
Legal help with estate planning
If you have put off writing your will, an attorney with experience in this area may advise you to remedy the situation, as taking care of end-of-life issues could provide you with peace of mind. An attorney could also suggest that you consider adding trusts to lower your estate tax exposure and give you more control over how your assets are distributed. Trusts could ensure that beneficiaries who have acted recklessly in the past or are struggling with substance abuse problems do not receive large lump sums, and they could also prevent loved ones from losing access to government programs like Medicaid.