How Probate Laws Work in South Carolina

When someone dies, the grieving process takes some time, Unfortunately, the rest of life can’t be put on hold. It is often the responsibility of family to take care of the decedent’s assets and manage the estate during this time.

Managing and settling an estate isn’t just a personal responsibility; it is also a legal responsibility, which is handled through probate. Probate is the method used to distribute and close an estate with the oversight of the court. If you’re involved in the process, you need to understand how probate works.

Is Probate Required in South Carolina?

In most cases, the answer is “yes.” Probate will be a necessary step in distributing he assets of the estate. The court monitors this process to ensure the decedent’s wishes are followed as indicated in the will.

How Do You Avoid Probate in South Carolina?

Even though most estates will need to go through probate, it is possible to avoid it. The best way to do so is to plan early by putting the estate in a living trust with the desired heirs named as beneficiaries. When all assets are in the trust, probate isn’t necessary.

Sometimes an estate must go through probate, but not all the assets are included. Those assets already have a named beneficiary who automatically receives them. Some examples include life insurance policies, bank accounts with someone named as payable on death, securities with named beneficiaries or retirement accounts.

Any asset owned by more than one person jointly will automatically go to the surviving owner, which means it doesn’t have to be included in probate.

Can an Executor of an Estate in South Carolina be Compensated?

An executor may be compensated for their time spent working on the estate. They can also receive compensation for any expenses they have from managing the estate.

How Much Does an Executor in South Carolina Get Paid?

South Carolina statutes allow for compensation, but they are very definitive on how much the executor may receive. Section 62-3-718 says they may get an amount not to exceed five percent of the value of the personal property. This is in addition to up to five percent from the sale of real property. The minimum amount to pay an executor is $50, regardless of the size of the estate. The amount may be approved by the court.

How Long Does Probate Take in South Carolina?

Formal probate in South Carolina will be open for at least eight months. Creditors are given that much time to submit claims against the estate. Of course, many estates will be open longer than that to allow for other issues or delays. If someone contests the will, the court may have a hearing on the matter, which will delay any other proceedings. Large estates can be open for more than a year. In some cases, it can take several years to settle the estate and close probate. It is difficult to predict how long probate will take, except with the informal process, which generally is much shorter and simpler. An attorney isn’t required in South Carolina, but they can help to move the process along.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in South Carolina?

Most estates will need to go through probate before the assets can be distributed. You may qualify for a simplified version of probate which is less time-consuming and completed in a shorter timeframe. The value must be $25,000 or less. Otherwise, simplified probate may also work for estates with a sole beneficiary who is also the executor.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in South Carolina?

A will must be filed with the court in the county where the decedent lived even if there is no estate to probate. The court will determine the validity of the will and handle any contests made against it.

Settling an Estate in South Carolina

South Carolina laws for settling an estate are much the same as in other states. Some differences may be found, such as the timeline for taking steps or the amounts required for informal probate. It’s a good idea to understand the basics of each step of probate if you’re involved in any way.

While this is a simplified list of what happens with probate, each step can take weeks or months to be completed. The tasks may be more complicated in larger estates, which is why it can be helpful to talk to an estate attorney.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in South Carolina?

South Carolina offers a generous timeline for filing probate. According to Section 62-3-108 of Title 62, a petition for probate must be filed within ten years of the person’s death to be considered.

Probate Court in South Carolina

Each county has its own probate judge. Unlike in some other states where the probate court is part of another court system, in South Carolina it is a separate entity under the category of trial courts. You can locate the county probate court judge from the South Carolina courts website: SC Judicial Branch (

Probate Code in South Carolina

Laws governing South Carolina probate are found in the state statutes, under Title 62 Articles 1-8. You can find the articles online on the South Carolina legislature website Code of Laws Title 62 South Carolina Probate Code (