Probate Court - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What estate planning documents should I have?
A. Everyone should consider having the following estate planning documents:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Power of Attorney for business affairs
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death (Living Will)

Q. In South Carolina, how is the property of a deceased citizen distributed if there is no will?
A. If a person dies without a will, the law of intestate succession controls probate property. Generally, the property passes in accordance with the deceased's family tree (unless there are non probate transfers).

Q. What are the requirements for having a legal will?
A. The document must be in writing, signed by a testator (person making the will) who is at least eighteen (18) years old and have two witnesses. You should consult an attorney to prepare your will, and you should NEVER attempt to prepare your own will. Also, if you have a will, you should never alter that document in any way without first consulting an attorney.

Q. What is required for one to apply for a marriage license in this state?
A. A person must be at least eighteen (18) years of age or have parental consent. The license is normally issued following the mandatory twenty-four (24) hour waiting period once the application is filed and after the fee is paid.

Q. I have a contested case. Can I talk to the judge about it?
A. A contested case is one where there is disagreement among the parties about how an estate should be handled. Under the South Carolina rules of court, one party is not allowed to talk with the judge without the other parties being present – this is called the “rule against ex parte contacts.” If you are involved in a dispute concerning a Will, Trust, Conservatorship or other matter and the family cannot resolve it privately, you should talk to a lawyer about the matter and retain an attorney to represent you. If the disagreement is concerning a relatively minor administrative duty, you can talk to the estate clerk assigned to your case. However, the estate clerk may recommend you retain an attorney to advise you, since this office cannot offer legal advice in contested cases.