Estate planning is something that everyone can – and should do – at some point in life. This is true regardless of whether you are young or old, healthy or sick, or a person of great or modest wealth.
By engaging in estate planning, you simply take advantage of your opportunity to assert control over your property and other matters at a time when you have the ability to do so. It can be as simple as creating a basic will or as complex as creating a series of trusts. It can involve only financial matters or it can cover health care directives and the future care of your children.
Every person is different. So, every estate plan will be different, too.
At Land, Parker & Welch, P.A., we have experience with many different forms of estate planning. We know the importance of paying close attention to our clients’ wishes and needs. We can develop an estate plan that meets all of your objectives.
If you would like to discuss your estate planning goals with a lawyer from our firm, please call us today or submit our online form.
We would be glad to provide a consultation at our Manning office or at a location that is most convenient for you. We serve clients throughout South Carolina, including Bishopville, Mayesville, Summerton, Sumter and Turbeville.
What Is Estate Planning?
Your “estate” is the sum of your personal assets and debts. It includes your home, land, cars, valuables, bank accounts, insurance policies, pension plans, investments and trust accounts. It includes your mortgage loan, student loan and credit card accounts as well.
“Estate planning” is a matter of providing a way for those assets and debts to be handled when you pass on. However, it can also involve planning for financial and health care decisions that must be made when you are alive but lack the capacity to make those decisions. Estate planning can even involve a plan that covers the care of your children in the event of a tragedy.
By engaging in estate planning, you can ensure that your loved ones are cared for after your death. You can also avoid problems for your loved ones such as:
- Will contests
- Timely and costly probate proceedings
- Potentially high estate taxes
It is important to meet with an attorney that has experience in a wide range of estate planning areas. Additionally, the attorney should have access to accountants and other financial services professionals who can help to craft a plan that works best for you.
Preparing Your Will
The most basic estate planning tool is a last will and testament. This document serves as a formal statement of how you want your property to be distributed and how you would like your estate’s other affairs to be handled after your death.
You do not need an attorney to draft a will. However, it is advisable to work with a lawyer in order to ensure that the will clearly states your wishes and meets all of South Carolina’s technical formalities. You can count on Land, Parker & Welch, P.A., to provide those services for you.
In South Carolina, you can create a will as long as you are:
- Age 18 or married
- Of sound mind (meaning that you know your estate, the “objects of your affection” and the persons to whom you are bequeathing your property)
To be deemed valid, the will must be:
- In writing
- Signed, or executed, by you
- Signed by two persons who witnessed your execution of the will
If those formalities go unmet, your will could be deemed “void” and have no legal effect. An attorney from our firm will make sure that does not happen.
In some cases, you may want to draft a new will or amend your existing will, which is called adding a “codicil.” We can help with those issues as well.
As the South Carolina Bar notes, a carefully prepared, valid will can serve many important functions, including:
- Distributing property as you wish – If you do not have a valid will, your property will pass to your heirs in accordance with South Carolina’s intestate succession laws. Those laws do not take your personal wishes into account. In your will, it will be important to be comprehensive and cover all property in your estate. The will should also clearly identify which individuals will receive specific property.
- Selecting your estate’s personal representative – In a will, you can name a family member, close friend or trusted professional as an executor. This person will be in charge of managing and closing your estate. The executor’s duties will include distributing property, settling debts and paying taxes. If you do not name an executor, then a personal representative will be chosen by the Probate Court, which is something you may want to avoid.
- Possibly cutting down on taxes and costs – If your estate passes a certain threshold value, your executor may have to pay state and federal estate taxes. However, an attorney can work with you on seeking options that can lower or avoid a tax obligation such as establishing a trust.
- Expressing your guardianship wishes – If you have minor children, you can express your wishes on who should have custody of them if you pass. Your wishes will be considered by a Family Court judge. If you have pets, you may wish to name a guardian for them.
- Making donations to charity – A will can also be used to donate funds from your estate to a charity that is dear to your heart. Working with a lawyer from our firm, you could establish a trust for the charity.
In short, a will can cover almost anything you want. Contact Land, Parker & Welch, P.A., today to meet with an estate planning lawyer who can craft a will that is specially tailored to your wishes.
Other Types of Estate Planning
As we mentioned above, estate planning goes well beyond preparing a will. Other estate planning services that our lawyers can provide include:
- Health care directives – If you are concerned about what will happen if you become too physically or mentally ill to make health care choices, you should consider one of two documents:
- Durable health care power of attorney – In this document, you give authority to a “proxy,” who can make health care decisions for you.
- Living will – In this document, you can express your desire to either accept or reject health care that is intended to sustain your life.
We can help you with completing the proper paper work that is needed to establish these health care directives.
- Attorney-in-Fact – If you are concerned about how your finances will be handled if you become incapacitated, you can give “power of attorney” to an individual you trust. This will allow the attorney-in-fact to pay your bills and manage your other financial affairs.
- Trusts – Many people turn to trusts as a way to lower estate taxes, avoid timely and costly probate procedures and, ultimately, benefit a person or organization they care deeply about. For instance, instead of leaving property to a family member, you may wish to establish a trust for him or her. We can assist with establishing any type of trust you wish to establish.
Get Help from a South Carolina Estate Planning Attorney
By planning for what happens with your estate in the event you pass on or become incapacitated, you can eliminate a lot of stress for yourself and, in particular, your loved ones. Let an attorney from Land, Parker & Welch, P.A., guide you through the process of establishing a will, trust, health care directive or power of attorney.
With more than 120 years of combined legal experience and a record of providing a high-level of serving to clients in Manning and throughout South Carolina, you can trust us to handle your estate planning with the care and professionalism you deserve.
Simply call or reach us online today to get started.