Isn’t that something to worry about later in life?
It’s human nature to believe there will always be more time. This is especially true when it comes to something such as drafting a will. Not only is it uncomfortable to think about your own death, it is especially difficult to think about losing a loved one or leaving someone behind. Drafting a will is often seen as something done later in life or not even thought of at all, because, let’s face it, we don’t like to think about death.
However, as the cliché goes, life is fleeting and accidents happen. We must all face the inevitable. Rather than seeing a will as an uncomfortable discussion, think of a will as a way to protect those we care for when we are no longer here. A will allows you to make sure your loved ones are taken care of. It also disposes of your assets in the most meaningful way to you.
What happens if I die without a will?
In South Carolina, state laws decide how your assets will be distributed without a will. When someone dies “intestate,” a court will follow the guidelines provided in the South Carolina Probate Code to decide which relatives will receive the deceased person’s assets. This process can take many years. If the court is unable to find any relatives, the state will assume the deceased person’s property.
What can I do with a South Carolina will?
With a will, you can decide the following:
- Determine who to leave your property to, such as family members, friends, or organizations;
- Name a personal guardian to care for your minor children;
- Designate a trusted person to manage your property you leave to minor children; and
- Specify who will make sure that the terms of your will are carried out. This person is called a “personal representative.”
There are other advantages of executing a will. Examples of some common directives are:
- Designating how property should be given to minors at a specific age older than eighteen years old;
- Designating how specific pieces of property, such as jewelry, should be given away;
- Determining whether to account for kids who are born after the will is signed without having to re-do the will; or
- Listing your wishes for your funeral arrangements, such as whether you wish to be buried or cremated.
Do I need anything besides a will in South Carolina?
Besides wills, there are other important estate planning documents. These documents are crucial in case of an emergency. Estate planning documents can help your loved ones make financial or health decisions for you if you become incapable. Completing these documents as part of your overall estate plan ensures that your wishes will be granted. Additionally, it also eliminates things for your loved ones to worry about during what can be an extremely emotional and stressful time. For example, we always explain the following options to people who ask for a will to be prepared:
- A Health Care Power of Attorney may be used to choose who will make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you have a serious injury or condition that leaves you unable to make decisions for yourself.
- A Living Will is a document that allows you to choose in what circumstances you want to reject life-sustaining medical procedures.
- A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to choose someone who will make financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to make such decisions on your own.
Do I need a lawyer to make a will in South Carolina?
While having an attorney draft your will is not a requirement in South Carolina, it is recommended. Not only can an experienced attorney ensure all your assets are protected, they will also ensure your will falls within the confines of the law.
To make a will, here are the basic requirements:
- You must be at least eighteen years old;
- You must be of sound mind (i.e., capable of making decisions on your own);
- The will must be in writing;
- The will must be signed by the person whose will it is (often called the “testator”); and
- The will must be witnessed by two people who are not named as recipients or beneficiaries in the will.
While you are not required to have an attorney draft your will, it is often a good idea to seek legal advice to make sure your wishes will be interpreted by South Carolina law in the way you intended.
Nobody wants to think about the inevitable. In a perfect world, we would all live to be one hundred years old and have our affairs in order when our time comes. However, life is unpredictable, and there is no better time to protect your loved ones than now and no simpler way than by creating a will or estate plan.
Please contact The Pearce Law Group, P.C. if you are ready to start planning your will. We help clients in the Myrtle Beach, Florence, Georgetown, Charleston, Beaufort, and Hilton Head areas as well as throughout South Carolina. Call us at 843-839-3210 or contact us online for a free one hour consultation with one of our attorneys today.