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What Happens if You Die in South Carolina Without a Will?
Updated February 2024
Less than half of US adults have a will, according to a 2021 Gallup poll – are you one of them? If so, you have committed Family Malpractice™, and you should know what happens to your estate if you die without a will in South Carolina.
If you die intestate – without a will – your estate will be disbursed according to South Carolina Code Title 62 Article 2. In order, your estate goes:
- Entirely to your spouse, if no surviving issue (descendants)
- 50% to your spouse and 50% divided among surviving issue
- Divided among surviving issue, if no surviving spouse
- Entirely to parents, if no surviving spouse or issue
- Divided among issue of the parents (your siblings), if no surviving spouse, issue, or parents
- If none of the above, then divided among grandparents or their issue
- If none of the above, then divided among great-grandparents or their issue
- If there is no taker, the estate passes to the State of South Carolina
Let’s say you’re married and have children. You die intestate. Your surviving spouse gets 50% of your estate, and your children split the remaining 50% equally.
On the surface, this sounds fair, and you might think it’s a good idea. But by allowing the state to decide what happens to your assets, you could be creating problems for your family later. This is especially true in so-called “Brady Bunch marriages,” or blended families, when heirs often clash.
When the spouse and the children don’t agree
Consider this scenario:
A husband and wife have been happily married for several years; it’s a second marriage for both. They both own the house they live in together, which is worth $200,000. When the wife dies, half of her half of the house (that is, 25%) goes to her husband. He now owns 75% of the house. The other half of her half of the house (the other 25%) is split among her three children from her first marriage. Collectively, they own 25% of the house.
The husband can’t afford to make the mortgage payments on the house now that his wife is gone; he has no choice but to sell. If he gets an offer for $200,000 and he receives 75% of that, he can pay off the mortgage. But the children tell him they want $100,000 of the $200,000, or they won’t sign the deed.
What can he do? Without their cooperation, he can’t sell the house. If he doesn’t sell, it will go into foreclosure. If he sues the children to force them to sell, by the time the matter is dealt with in the courts, he will have lost the house to foreclosure anyway.
So he sells the house and takes the loss.
The situation above could have been avoided if his wife had left behind a will.
Make your estate plan today
In the example above, the children didn’t get along with their stepfather. But even relationships that have always been solid can go sour when there’s money at stake. And when you begin to add in multiple children from different marriages, it gets even more complicated.
Dying without a will may burden your family with the stress of having to deal with your estate without knowing what your wishes were, all while coping with a huge personal loss. Fortunately, creating an estate plan isn’t difficult. Call Gem McDowell at (843) 284-1021 to set up an appointment to discuss your estate plan today.