The probate process and distribution to the heirs can be as short as six months and as long four years depending upon the state laws regarding creditors’ claims, whether there is property to be sold, whether there are tax liabilities, whether there are disputes among heirs, and congestion in the courts.
The executor named in the Will is in charge of this process, and Probate provides an orderly method for administration of the estate. If there is no Will, a personal representative or administrator is appointed by the Probate court to oversee the process. In some cases the executor is also called the personal representative even if there is a Will. The executor is accountable to the beneficiaries and must perform their administrative duties in a fair and legal manner. Probate law generally permits and encourages or provides for partial distribution prior to the final distribution and closing of the estate. During the period of administration; some property and assets (or cash) may be distributed rather than sold during this time. Inheritance tax laws often place the executor or personal representative in charge of filing and making tax payments. Thus, the choice of an executor is an important one. The job of estate administration and accounting must be done regardless of whether an estate goes through the Probate process or Probate is avoided.
Many U.S. States have adopted the Uniform Probate Code or simplified their probate processes over the years. For more information, read our section on South Carolina Code of Laws: Title 62 – South Carolina Probate Code.
To discuss your legal options, contact us or call our office at (843) 667.0400.