Locating the assets and debts of an estate is one of the largest undertakings in the probate process. It can be quite challenging to track down all of the assets a decedent possessed, and it can be even more challenging to figure out all of the debts that the deceased may have owed.
Within 90 days of the executor’s appointment, the inventory and appraisement form must be filed. This form provides a summary of the estate to the court. This form must also be filed with the South Carolina Department of Revenue and Taxation in some cases.
To complete the inventory and appraisal, it may be necessary to hire a professional appraiser to establish the fair market value of certain pieces of property. For example, assistance may be needed to properly value pieces of artwork. A real estate appraiser may be necessary to provide the value of the decedent’s home. The assets will be valued as of the date of death. Once the inventory and appraisal is completed, a copy is typically sent to the tax assessor’s office.
Creditors and Outstanding Debt
The debts that were identified must be paid. However, the executor should not pay claims that were not filed properly or that missed the filing deadline. Creditors have 60 days from the date they received notice of the deceased’s death or eight months from the date the notice was published in the newspaper to file their claims with the estate. If a creditor misses these deadlines, the creditor will lose the right to recover the debt from the estate.
Creditors respond to the notice or newspaper publication by filing a notice of claim with the probate court and with the executor. The executor will then review the claims and state whether the claims will be paid or disallowed. If disallowed, the executor must tell the debtor that the claim will be barred if the debtor does not act within 30 days.
Depending on the value of the estate, tax returns may need to be filed. These returns must be filed within nine months of the death of the decedent. If these tax returns are not filed properly, the estate may be penalized, with interest. In some cases, the executor may become liable for these amounts.
Closing the estate
Once all creditors have been notified and the applicable waiting periods have passed, the executor may begin the process of closing the estate. To close the estate, the executor must complete a final accounting that shows how the assets were distributed. Additionally, a proposal for distribution form must be filed, which provides the names of the beneficiaries of the estate, as well as the amounts or assets that have been provided to each.
A petition for settlement will also be filed. The petition for settlement essentially seeks the probate court’s permission to approve the distribution of the estate and the accounting. The petition for settlement also asks the court to discharge the executor.
Clearly, the probate process in South Carolina may be a lengthy one. Disputes may arise at any point before the estate is closed, which may become expensive court battles. A strong probate attorney is a valuable asset in these claims.
Do you need a probate attorney?
If you have been appointed as executor of an estate, or if you have concerns about the handling of a loved one’s estate, contact the De Bruin Law Firm today for a free case review. Our attorneys are experienced in probate law an have handled estates of all sizes.
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