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Greenville Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate planning is not limited to people with a large amount of assets. It is not in any way, shape, or form exclusive to wealthy individuals or wealthy families. Estate planning is a means of creating a strategy to distribute your assets after your death to ensure that those assets go to the people that you want them to go to. It is more than just a will. Although it is possible to get only a will, there are a number of other documents that, together, help create a clear plan should a number of situations occur. A good estate plan prevents situations where your family does not know what you want during times of physical or mental incapacitation, or even after your death.

An estate plan also aims to answer questions about your children, such as who’s going to take care of those children and how are they going to be taken care of. Providing for children is the number one concern for parents and a good estate plan will help ensure the children are well cared for and provided for in the event of your passing.

What Actually Is A Trust?

What Are The Components That Make Up An Effective Trust?

What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will or an Estate Plan?

Unfortunately, it is very common for someone to die without a will or an estate plan. Almost half of people over age fifty are without an estate plan which leaves their family to make all the decisions. In South Carolina, assets of the deceased spouse are divided between the surviving spouse and any children of the spouses. Now, you have a situation where the spouse owns assets with her children, and they must come to an agreement before selling those assets. For families with minor children, an accident that leaves both parents incapacitated or dead can lead to contested Court hearings between other family members regarding the children. Without an estate plan that appoints a guardian for the children, the parents may not get to choose who cares for their children. Without the plan, the Court is left with the obligation of deciding for you, without the benefit of your desires, best wishes, or intentions.

How Often Should Someone Review Their Estate Plan?

Typically, we suggest a person review their estate plan once a year to ensure they still agree with the provisions. However, we suggest an immediate review if some life changing event occurs. For instance, if the guardian you named in the Will is separating or going through a divorce with their spouse, you may want to consider another guardian to ensure the children go to a stable home. We at the De Bruin Law Firm will review your documents every three years or immediately if the law changes that may affect you. It’s no different than going to a doctor for a routine checkup. After 3 years, we would like to sit down for a conversation and see if anything significant has changed. We might want to look over how your estate plan has been handled thus far.

We want you to contact us if you even suspect that a situation may impact your current estate plan. We have seen situations where a beneficiary that stood to receive a large inheritance is addicted to drugs. We can change the plan to ensure the inheritance would instead be used for drug treatment or withheld until the beneficiary is off drugs and clean for at least a year. Without that provision, the beneficiary would have received the inheritance and most likely would have used it quickly on their addiction.

Other changes are necessary when a beneficiary becomes disabled and in need of government assistance. In these situations, we would need to change the estate plan to prevent money or assets going directly to the disabled person since that distribution may disqualify the beneficiary from receiving government assistance such as Medicaid. Instead of going directly to the beneficiary, we can ensure the assets go into a trust and used for the beneficiary’s well being and support. That change of control over the asset, will prevent the beneficiary from disqualification of needed government assistance.

What are The Basic Items Entailed in an Estate Plan?

The most common of all items in an estate plan is the last will and testament. The will directs where your assets will go after your death, who will care for minor children if both parents are deceased, the deceased’s desired for funeral arrangements, and who is appointed to carry out the distribution of assets.

In situations where you can no longer make medical decisions for yourself, a Medical Power of Attorney executed prior to the incapacitation, directs an agent you appoint to make those medical decisions on your behalf. The Medical Power of Attorney is for permanent and temporary incapacitation.

The Advance Directive or Living Will makes known your desires regarding the end of your life. It may inform the doctors that you want to die naturally and prevent life sustaining measures if you are in a permanent vegetative state or terminally ill. Again, these two medical documents are only used when you cannot make medical decisions for yourself due to incapacitation.

Another common document in estate plans is a trust. The most common and basic type of trust is a revocable trust. This trust allows you to put assets in the name of the trust to be passed outside probate. We commonly refer to these trusts as Probate Avoidance Trusts. Instead of your assets going through the probate process and incurring probate fees, a revocable trust can distribute the assets in trust to the beneficiaries immediately or in accordance to your plan. There are many types of trusts that achieve different goals.

What Qualities Should Someone Look for When Retaining an Estate Planning Attorney?

In any professional relationship, the first thing you should look for is trust. You want to be able to know that they are going to handle your situation in a professional manner. Our firm is made up of three family members dedicated to helping our community and clients. That dedication is the keystone to everything we do and in every aspect of our daily functions. Our clients know that what we suggest is in their best interests and that we have a desire to see them succeed or protected.

When searching for an estate planning attorney, it is also important to select someone who is experienced in estate planning. When you go in for your consultation, it is important to ask if the attorney has handled cases or estates like yours before. At the De Bruin Law Firm, our estate planning attorneys are experienced and have handled estate planning issues for decades.

For more information on Estate Planning in South Carolina, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (864) 982-5930 today.

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The attorneys at the De Bruin Law Firm understand that estate matters are emotional and stressful. We are available to provide objective advice and guidance during these difficult times. To view our Estate Planning Fees call 864-982-5930 or get started below.

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The attorneys at the De Bruin Law Firm understand that estate matters are emotional and stressful. We are available to provide objective advice and guidance during these difficult times. To schedule a free consultation, call 864-982-5930 or get started below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need A Will?
In almost every case, the answer is yes. Let’s discuss what a will is to understand why. A will is a legal document that contains a person’s wishes for how his or her assets will be distributed after his or her death. A will allows someone to guarantee that their property goes to the right people in the right proportion, rather than allowing someone else to make that decision for you. This can be especially important in cases where your chosen distribution differs from the legal default. For example, someone with a special needs child may wish to allocate a larger share of assets than would otherwise be allowed to ensure that child’s continued care. In other cases, a person may wish to support an important charitable organization, a friend, extended family members, etc., all of whom would receive nothing without a will expressly requiring it.
What Happens If You Die Without A Will?
Dying without a will in South Carolina means your assets will pass according to the state’s laws regarding intestate succession. This is just a fancy legal word for death without a will. The law in South Carolina says that if a person dies with children, but no spouse, the children will inherit everything. If the person dies with a spouse, but no direct descendants, then the spouse inherits everything. If there is a spouse and direct descendants, the spouse receives ½ of the intestate property while the descendants jointly inherit everything else. In cases where there is no spouse or children, parents inherit everything if they are still living; if not, siblings are next in line.
Will The State Get My Property?
The last stop in the intestate succession process is the State of South Carolina. When a person dies without a will and does not have any family to inherit, property will “escheat” to the state, meaning the state effectively becomes your heir. This happens only rarely and only when there are no spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or cousins. To avoid this possibility, all you need to do is write out a legally enforceable will.
What Should I Include In My Will?
As we’ve already discussed, wills are excellent ways to deal with and distribute financial assets. Beyond handing out money, wills can also be used to do other things. For example, wills can set aside amounts of money for specific purposes, not just as inheritance. A person can set aside a bank account to pay for funeral expenses, final debts ,or to care for a beloved pet. Wills can be used to choose an executor and to forgive debts. Perhaps most importantly, for those with minor children, wills allow you to name guardians for the children and provide for their financial future.
Are Wills Valid Out Of State?
Some people are under the impression that a will drafted in South Carolina is valid only so long as the person remains in South Carolina. Thankfully, this is not true. If a Greenville estate planning lawyer draws up a legally enforceable will that has been validly executed, it will be recognized as legally valid in every other state. That being said, the court and probate systems work differently in every state and there are certain provisions that may be needed or not needed, depending on your location. Though you shouldn’t fear that a move requires reinventing your entire estate plan, it does make sense to sit down with an attorney and ensure that your existing documents are sufficient given your new state’s legal requirements.
What Is A Trust?

A trust is a legal entity that exists to hold assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. The trust is created by a grantor and is filled with assets of almost any kind. These assets are then managed by a trustee during the term of the trust. Trusts can last for a person’s lifetime, for a set number of years or until the beneficiary reaches a certain age.

Beyond this broad description, trusts take on many different forms. Trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable, meaning they can be created and undone at will. Some trusts begin during the grantor’s lifetime, while others exist only after a person’s death. Trusts are incredibly versatile tools that can be used to accomplish many things. A knowledgeable South Carolina estate planning attorney can construct a trust designed to fit your needs.

What Is The Difference Between A Trust And A Will?
Many people try to make overgeneralizations when it comes to the powers of trusts or the ease of wills. The truth is that one is not necessarily better or worse than the other, they are just different. Both are incredibly useful and can have a place in an effective estate plan. Where a trust may be a huge benefit to some families, it may not make sense to others. Where a will is a great vehicle for distributing some assets, it may make less sense for passing along others. Consult an experienced South Carolina estate planning for help crafting the right plan for you.
What Is Probate?
Probate is technically the legal mechanism by which title to property of a recently deceased person is transferred to his or her heirs. The goal of probate is to ensure that every possible claim against the estate and those owing to the estate has been settled and that title has been given to the rightful heirs. This can be a lengthy process in some especially complicated cases, and the goal is to ensure that when all’s said and done, an estate can be wrapped up without lingering disputes.
Does Everything Have To Go Through Probate?
The short answer is no, not everything a person owns goes through probate. These assets pass through other avenues, such as payable-on-death accounts or beneficiary designations. Examples of assets that do not pass through the probate system include property that has been transferred into a trust, life insurance proceeds, retirement funds, money in payable-on-death bank accounts, and property that is owned with someone else as a joint tenant.
What Are The Advantages Of Avoiding Probate?

There are several important advantages that come from avoiding the probate process. First, time. If you are the owner of a small business that you intend to pass along to a family member, this can be especially important. Probate puts everything in a state of limbo, sometimes leading to long delays before important business decisions can be made. Uncertainty and a lack of legal authority can make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep a business running, which is why many business owners take steps to ensure their business passes outside the probate system.

Another advantage to avoiding probate is saving money. Probate is a court process and court costs needs to be paid. Usually the amount of money is relatively small, but complicated cases can become quite costly, especially if experts or other third parties become involved.

A final advantage of avoiding probate is the lack of public disclosure. The probate process takes place in the court system and, as such, is open to the public. That means that the person’s will, the final property allocation, and anything else related to the administration of the estate will become matters of public record, available for anyone to read. These deeply personal and financial matters are obviously sensitive and many people would prefer to keep things private.

How Often Should You Update Your Estate Planning?
Too often people view creating an estate plan as a one time ordeal, believing that once it’s done, you can put your papers in a filing cabinet and never think about them again. A better approach is to view estate planning as an ongoing process, rather than one with a finite beginning and end. Estate plans should be updated whenever there is a significant change in your life. This change can be personal, such as a divorce, a new marriage, birth of children, grandchildren, etc., or it can be financial, such as a new business, purchase of new assets, sales of previously accounted for assets, etc. The safe approach is to plan on reviewing your existing estate plan every few years to be sure that something hasn’t happened that would make you consider changes.

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