Understanding South Carolina Estate Planning

Charleston Estate Planning | South Carolina Estate PlanningSouth Carolina estate planning is one of the most personal aspects of the legal practice.  In order for our Charleston estate planning attorneys to develop an excellent estate plan, it is import for clients to feel at ease and be open to sharing their personal frustrations or family objectives concerning their spouse, their children, other family members, and the location and value of their wealth.  Oftentimes when we inquire why our clients would like to establish an estate plan, they respond in a variety of ways:

  • Some want to quickly complete an estate plan because they are about to go on a trip and they procrastinated putting a plan in place for years and years;
  • Some have just moved to South Carolina and want their existing estate plan reviewed and revised according to South Carolina law and changes in the domicile and assets;
  • Some want an estate plan because they believe it is very important to make outline the inheritances of their children
  • Some want to prevent or reduce estate taxes;
  • Some want a revocable living trust because they want to avoid the probate process and added publicity;
  • Some have received an inheritance or were just hired as a professional or executive and now they have built a large enough estate to warrant estate planning; and
  • Some have heard of situation in which spouses and loved ones were left out of inheritances or, even after extended legal battles, improperly received their inheritances and they want to ensure that this does not occur to their loved ones.

Estate Planning & Client Objectives

As Charleston estate planning attorneys, we understand that the basic objective of estate planning for South Carolina families, individuals and business owners is to plan for the orderly allocation of assets in accordance with their specific intent and desires.  Further, often the principal goal of a client is to comfortably provide for the surviving spouse, and then transfer the remainder of assets to the children.  In second marriages, the aforementioned goal may in fact be reversed; although the surviving spouse’s support may be provided for, the ultimate enjoyment of the property by the children of the first marriage is concerned.  If business interests are involved, estate planning objectives can become even more multifaceted. It’s often necessary for a client to determine whether the business will be continued or will be liquidated.  If the business is to continue, the client will have to determine who should control and manage the business and how its equity is to be divided among the beneficiaries .

Our attorneys work closely with our clients to determine their basic desires regarding disposition of their assets, property, what family members are to benefit and how, and any particular special problems or needs of the family or their business.  Taxes are also an important component of estate planning for many clients, but, generally, it is no longer their primary objective.

The estate planning process involves several specific steps.  First, our attorneys must gather all relevant information that may have an impact upon development of the estate plan.  This includes pertinent financial information as well as information regarding the family or other beneficiaries and the client’s inclinations toward gifting and protecting the beneficiaries.  Second, the information must be analyzed and an estate plan must be developed.  This will involve our attorneys sitting down with each client to explain the proposed estate plan so that the client understands it and can confirm that it reflects their intentions and desires.

Once the estate plan is developed, the third step is its implementation.  This involves the preparation  and execution of any needed documents, as well as the transfer of ownership of any property, such as the client’s home or land, that may be required under the estate plan.  Finally, after the estate plan has been implemented, our attorneys emphasize to each client that estate planning is a continuing process, requiring updating as the facts and circumstances of the client change, or as new laws are enacted that may have a bearing on the clients existing estate plan.

Risks of Not Establishing An Estate Plan

What are some of the risks that may confront persons with inadequate or nonexistent estate plans? A last will and testament is generally the cornerstone of any estate plan.  If an individual dies without a will or revocable trust plan, that is, “intestate,” his or her property is distributed according to South Carolina state laws on distribution and descent rather than according to his intentions and desires. If an individual does have a will, but it is out-of-date, it may not reflect his current intentions regarding the disposition of his property. Also, the types of property that make up the estate and the way in which they are owned (e.g., jointly, beneficially in trust) may not have been taken into account when the will was drafted. In addition, property may be left to a beneficiary who has predeceased the testator.  Property could also be left outright to a beneficiary who is incapable of taking care of it. Or, the property may not even go to those beneficiaries whom the he or she would like to see inherit. Children or grandchildren born after the will was executed may be left out entirely.

A well thought-out estate plan will avoid those issues listed above and many other numerous problems, including the avoidance of steep taxes. An estate plan is a dynamic, living legal body that develops and changes as the needs and status of its owner grow and change. Thus, Our  Charleston estate planning attorneys highly suggest protecting your legacy, your family, children and other beneficiaries by establishing an appropriate estate plan before it is too late.