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Estate Planning FAQ

Answers from South Carolina attorneys you can trust

What is a last will and testament? What is a living will? What is a trust? These are questions we hear all the time from people about estate law. Fortunately, you have come to the right place for the answers. That's because our South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Matthews & Megna have years of experience dealing with such complex legal issues.

Below, you'll find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about estate planning. We also encourage you to contact us to discuss your specific estate planning questions. That way, you can make smart decisions about your family's financial future.

Common questions

What is a will?

Often known as a last will and testament, a will outlines how someone wants their assets (house, car, boat, retirement savings, 401k, etc.) distributed after their death. There are many other issues that can be outlined in a will. That's why it's important to have a legally binding will created by an experienced attorney.

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What is a living will?

A living will allows someone to provide specific instructions for their health and well-being if they can no longer do so due to a serious accident, illness or another medical condition.

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Do I need a will if my estate is small?

Yes. Even if you think your estate (your possessions and financial assets) is small, a will is essential, especially for your heirs. Without a will, your beneficiaries could spend months in court and thousands of dollars trying to establish who are the rightful heirs to your estate. Preserve your assets and save your family time and money. Create a will. We can help.

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What are the tax implications of a will in South Carolina?

Unlike many states, South Carolina does not collect an estate tax. But tax laws at the state and federal level change frequently. That's why it's always important to talk to an experienced South Carolina estate planning attorney about tax implications when planning for your future.

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Can I change the beneficiaries in my will?

Yes. You can change your will at any time, including changing the beneficiaries in your will. You just need to make sure your changes are done so that they are legally and properly witnessed and certified. Otherwise, your new will may not be valid. In addition, your old will could then be contested by your new beneficiaries. Avoid any confusion surrounding your will. Talk to a lawyer if you want to change the beneficiaries in your will or make any other changes to this important document.

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What happens if I die without a will in South Carolina?

First, much of the deceased's property is declared "intestate," which means there are no clear beneficiaries for your assets. Even if you are married, your spouse will not automatically inherit everything. Your estate will be divided between your spouse and your children. Your family will need to go through probate (process of verifying a will) and may face challenges from various people who claim they are the rightful heirs to the estate. That's why it's important to have a will to avoid such legal challenges.

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What is a trust?

A trust is often an essential part of estate planning. By creating a trust, the ownership of your assets will be placed in a trust, which often allows your heirs to avoid having to pay taxes after your death or go through probate. There are many different kinds of trusts. We can explain all of them to you.

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What is a living trust?

This type of trust allows the person who created the trust to have access and control over their assets placed in trust during their lifetime. The assets are then transferred to the beneficiaries after the person's death without having to go through probate.

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What is a revocable trust?

This is a trust that can be changed during a person's lifetime. After the person's death, ownership of assets placed in trust will then be transferred to the beneficiaries without having to go through probate.

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What is an irrevocable trust?

This type of trust cannot be changed during a person's lifetime. Once it's created, the person who created the irrevocable trust transfers the ownership of the assets placed in trust to the beneficiaries without having to pay estate taxes or go through probate.

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What role does a trustee play with a trust?

The person who creates a trust is known as the trustor. The person who manages the trust is known as the trustee. The trustee makes sure the assets placed in trust are transferred to the beneficiaries at a designated time. That's why it's important to designate someone you trust to serve as your trustee.

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Do I need a trust if my estate is small?

Perhaps. Or you might simply want to create a last will and testament. We can explain all the options available to you so you can make the best choice for your specific circumstances.

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What are the tax implications of a trust in South Carolina?

South Carolina is different from many other states since it does not collect an estate tax. But estate taxes could be an issue if the beneficiaries live in other states. Another benefit to creating a trust - your heirs will likely not have to go through probate, a timely and often costly process after someone's death. That's why it pays to talk to an attorney about whether or not you should create a trust.

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What is probate?

Probate is the legal process performed after someone's death to verify the legality of someone's last will and testament. A probate court judge presides over such cases, which can sometimes take months to resolve. Many families avoid probate by placing financial assets in a trust. Our attorneys can offer you estate planning advice on whether you should create a trust in order to avoid probate or represent you in all probate court proceedings.

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What is power of attorney?

Power of attorney is a legal term used to describe the person who has the legal authority to make decisions for someone who cannot do so, often due to a medical condition such as a severe accident injury or coma. Choosing someone to serve as your power of attorney is a very important decision. Our estate planning attorneys can explain all the legal implications. That way, you can make an informed decision about this important legal matter.

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Why is estate planning important?

You worked hard throughout your life to build your estate - everything you own from your house to your car, property, retirement savings and more. By creating an effective estate plan, you can insure that your assets will go to the people you want in the future.

But estate planning can accomplish so much more - from outlining instructions for your care if you are no longer able to do so in the future to helping your family avoid probate or estate taxes. That's why it's critical that you have an effective estate plan in place.

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How can a lawyer help me with estate planning?

Legal challenges can undermine any estate plan. That's why it's critical that whatever estate planning tool you choose to carry out your wishes can withstand a strong legal challenge. Our experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys thoroughly understand all the state and federal rules and regulations related to estate planning. We can explain the pros and cons of different types of estate plans and which one makes the most sense for you. And we can work with you to create an estate plan that fits your unique needs. Contact us to learn more.

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