Estate Planning

Hopkins Law Firm

Wills And Estate Planning In South Carolina

Estate planning can at the very least include a will, your healthcare power of attorney and a living will. Even a simple estate plan will vary from person to person or family to family.

For example, those who have a second family with step children may need to rewrite an old will or create a will that clearly represents their wishes. A will can prevent disputes if there is a desire to control assets after death by many family members.

Life insurance is an excellent way to protect your family if you are the primary earner in the family.

You may want to set aside benefits from life insurance by will or in a trust for children's education.

Below are some general resources to help you understand estate planning. Tax planning can be recommended for large estates. A trust may be ideal for a blended planning and how an estate plan will help you and your family.

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Understanding Wills

Simple wills may be all but simple. A will can provide many benefits for estate plans in South Carolina. Even if you do not have a large estate, you can avoid problems for your children or beneficiaries with a well drafted will. Therefore, no will is necessarily simple. Your family situation, your desired beneficiaries, sentimental personal property must all be considered, even for a small estate.

When To Use A Testamentary Trust

You may include a testamentary trust for minors. Create a trust made by your will to avoid a lump sum payment to your children, nephew or nieces (or any beneficiary under a certain age). Trusts for minors avoid the appointment of a conservator over any money to the minor. A conservatorship requires a court order, and can be time consuming and very costly. You also have the choice of who will oversee the money.

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An Intestate Succession

If there is no will then there will be a intestate succession, as defined by South Carolina law. If you have a spouse and children, your estate will be equally divided, but the state will have to establish a conservatorship for the children. A number of issues result where you cannot control the distribution of your estate. For example, if there is an outright gift to an adult child that has substance abuse problems this may actually hurt more than help.

Call us at 843-314-4202 or email the firm for a free consultation.

There Are Many Options With Trusts

There are number options when considering trusts depending on your specific desires. We can help you assess your situation and decide which options fit your lifestyle and goals.

Options include :
  • Testamentary- established by your will.
  • Inter vivos trust -a revocable living trust
  • Charitable trust - set up in a number of ways to benefit your family and then give to charity or vice versa.
  • Qualified terminable interest trust
  • Qualified domestic trust
  • Life insurance trust - owner of a policy to avoid taxing the estate at death
  • Trust for children - special needs trusts or less specific trust for minors and many more...

Trusts are created by IRS regulations and governed by the creating trust document and South Carolina Trust Code. Generally, your will is customized to take advantage of the trust you choose. There are other considerations as well. Cost is always in issue. The cost of creating and managing a trust should not outweigh the need or assets to be included in the trust. You may have a desire to split your estate between your children and a charity. A trust would be a great way to do this, but if your estate is not large enough to warrant such a plan, you could create a similar plan with your will and various investments during your lifetime. It should not be overlooked that trust may be useful during your life as well. For example, trusts can be private entities established to purchase land or make investments where a business organization would be publicly available.

Using The Courts When Necessary

There are times when you may be required to use the courts. There are also situations where the courts provide a valuable and beneficial service. Some instances include: A will contest, enforcing a will, when there has been personal representative wrongdoing or when you need to modify a will or trust.

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Avoid Issues Now With Estate Planning

Generally, with estate planning you don't need the courts to draft or execute your wills and trusts. However, the courts have provided valuable insight into drafting those things that are required for a valid estate plan. Whether you need a simple will or complex estate plan, we ensure that your plan adheres to known case law to avoid later issues for your estate.

Understanding The Court's Role In A Trust

The courts are useful to make changes to an existing irrevocable trust. Generally, the courts will be needed if the trust agreement does not provide the power for the trustee to make the changes or the instructions when changes can be made. There are times when changes to the trust or beneficiaries may be easily pursued, such as when the expense of continuing the trust defeats the purpose of the trust.

Other times, for example when the trustee has breached his or her fiduciary duty, then changes to the trust may not be easily pursued. Sometimes, the courts can be helpful to force someone that does not want to deal with the trust to do so. The court system remains a useful tool to make needed changes to a trust to ensure that the trust remains true to its original purpose.

The process can be complex, which is why we offer a free consultation to assess your unique situation and determine how we can help. Call 843-314-4202, or email us. Serving clients throughout South Carolina.

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About Hopkins Law Firm

The law is here to guard your rights. Our team is here to protect your rights and give you the support and guidance you need every step of the way.

Charleston Office
171 Church Street #160
Charleston, SC 29401
Pawleys Island Office
12019 Ocean Highway
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
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