If Covid-19 is teaching us anything… it’s that life is valuable. Emails, calls, social media posts, and all the rest of our correspondence begin and end with phrases like “stay safe” or mention these “uncertain times.” It’s a testament to the value our society places on human life.
Estate planning honors your life. Having a plan says “I value my life and the people I love.” Why work hard, sacrifice, and plow through tough days if the government can dictate what happens with your estate and steal your property when you die? If you don’t take control, you’ll leave your loved ones with more questions than answers.
What is an Estate Plan?
Developing an estate plan takes inventory of what you have and then decides what to do with it after you are gone. The South Carolina Probate Code governs wills in South Carolina (S.C. Code Ann. 62-1-101 to 62-8-403). Your Last Will and Testament allows you to leave tangible personal property (including pets). It does not, however, include tangible personal property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship or other non-probate form of ownership. Tangible personal property usually includes household and certain personal property effects such as boats, family jewelry, artwork, and automobiles.
Here are some aims of estate planning in South Carolina:
1) Leaving your assets to the people you want
2) Protecting assets
3) Avoiding Probate and limiting government’s hand in your estate
4) Reducing taxes
5) Designating fiduciaries to care for your property and loved ones (kids)
6) Understanding non-probate v. probate property
Estate Planning Tools
Most estate plans consider the following three elements: Wills, Trust, and non-probate property. Health Care Power of Attorney and living wills are also utilized. There are many tools and more complex schemes, but this is the framework. It is essential that all three work together to help you achieve your goals. For example, your Will might govern who will take care of your children and what to do with certain personal property. If you have a trust, it might own other property and dictate how it’s distributed upon your death. Alongside your Wills and Trusts are non-probate items, such as IRAs and Life Insurance. Each estate plan is highly customizable based on the needs of each person and/ or family.
A will allows you to determine how your property will be distributed after death, who will care for minor children, and provide an opportunity for you to communicate your wishes. They often work with other elements of your estate plan.
Trusts are great tools designed to give you total control over your assets and how they are used when you are gone. The South Carolina Trust Code, sections 62-7-101 to 62-7-1106 of the South Carolina Code Annotated, governs South Carolina Trusts. There are various types of trusts, so it is important to understand your options before drafting trust documents.
Estate planning, especially in South Carolina, is a wonderful gift to your loved ones and a way to ensure your wishes are honored.