Less than fifty percent of Americans have a Last Will and Testament (Will), which is the document that tells your loved ones what you want to happen to your belongings after your death. Wills are not just for people who have a lot of money and land to divide among their loved ones after their death. Wills are for everyone. Do you care who gets your property when you die? Do you care who gets your money when you die? Do you care who is appointed as the guardian of your minor children when you die? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need a Will.
A Will lets you name the people you would like to inherit your belongings after your death. If you have children under the age of eighteen, a Will lets you name who you would like to be appointed as their legal guardian. Having a Will makes your wishes clear to your family member and will cause less confusion for them after your death. The Will also names a specific person, called a personal representative, to be responsible for making sure that the wishes stated in your Will are followed and that your chosen heirs receive the correct property or items after your death.
If you die without a Will, the Probate Court Judge will divide your personal belongings according to the South Carolina intestacy law. Under the current law, your closest living family members will have it divided among them. This may not be the same way that you wish to divide up your belongings and may not be the same people you wish to inherit from you after your death. With some exceptions, you cannot prevent your family members from inheriting from you unless you have a Will that states that you do not want that person to receive anything.
The only way to make sure that your wishes are followed after your death is to have a valid Will prepared by an attorney. It must be properly witnessed and notarized. You will not have any input or control over how your belongings are divided after your death unless you have a valid Last Will and Testament. If you are interested in having a Last Will and Testament, but cannot afford an attorney, then you should contact South Carolina Legal Services at 1 (888) 346-5592 or apply online to see if you are eligible for a free attorney to help you.