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Probate Court
Estate Division - FAQ
What does it mean to "probate" a will?

Probate means the Will is admitted as valid under South Carolina law. Informal probate admits the will as valid. Formal probate requires a hearing to confirm the validity of the will. If the will has erasures, white-out, or other markings, the Court may require a formal probate proceeding.

How do I know if I need to go through the Probate Court in Greenville County?

You file your proceeding in Greenville County Probate Court if the deceased meets any of the following:

  • Was a permanent resident of Greenville County; or,
  • Was a non-resident but owned property in Greenville County; or,
  • Has a right through his or her estate to commence legal proceedings in Greenville County.

What if the deceased did not have a will?

When someone dies without a will, the estate is called “intestate”. When this happens, the property of the deceased is distributed to his or her family in accordance with the intestacy statute found in Section 62-2-101 of the SC Probate Code.

Do I need an attorney to probate a will?

For formal probate or appointment, the services of an attorney are recommended. This requires the filing of a Summons/Petition/filing fee and then service of the pleadings on the interested parties. A hearing will then be set for presentation of testimony. Since a hearing is not required for informal probate and/or informal appointment, an attorney is not necessary in this case.

What is an Executor?

Before the law changed in 1987, a person appointed to handle an estate could have been called an Executor/Executrix or Administrator/Administratrix. Today the person appointed to handle an estate is called the Personal Representative or PR.

How does a Personal Representative get appointed?

Appointment of a Personal Representative is granted informally to a person who has priority under South Carolina law. Usually, the Personal Representative is named in the will by the deceased. However, priority can result through the will, by law, by renunciation, or by termination. Any person with priority may nominate another. A person without priority may only be appointed through formal proceedings. Following service of the formal Summons/Petition, a hearing will be scheduled to determine who is the appropriate person to administer the estate.

What are the duties of the Personal Representative?

The Personal Representative is responsible for collecting, protecting and administering the estate. This includes giving Notice to all interested parties, filing an Inventory of the estate, making sure assets are secure during probate time, paying required claims and costs, and making sure the proper people get what they are entitled to receive.

How do I get started?

The first steps are designed to determine the type of probate proceeding needed to distribute the deceased person’s property, the validity of the Will if there is one, and the appointment of a Personal Representative.

Filing the Will (Testate Estate)

State law requires the filing of the original Will by anyone in possession of the original Will within 30 days from the date of death. The original Will bears the original signatures of the deceased and the witnesses. (Copies of Wills will not be accepted without a formal proceeding (pleadings filed and maybe a hearing). You will need the services of an attorney if you only have a copy.)

In addition to the Will, you will need to file proof of death which is usually a certified copy of the Death Certificate, and the Worksheet which provides us with information we need to begin the probate process.

COVID SAFETY MEASURE: To reduce the risk of exposure to the COVID virus, we encourage you to deliver the Will and the other items to our office by dropping them in the Locked Drop Boxes provided outside of Suite 1200. Our Court Information Specialists retrieve the contents of these boxes multiple times each day.

What if there is no Will (Intestate Estate)

The procedure above is the same as if there was a Will, except there is no filing fee.

Assigning a Judicial Assistant

One of our Court Information Specialists (CIS) will review your documents listed above. She will mail you a packet of information that will contain forms for you to complete. The information will also contain a business card for your assigned Judicial Assistant. The card will have her telephone number, email, and her mailing address. She will be assisting you throughout the process on matters of procedure. She is STRICTLY PROHIBITED FROM GIVING LEGAL ADVICE.

COVID SAFETY MEASURE: Once you have completed the forms, you may return those to your Judicial Assistant whose name appears on the business card. You can return those by regular mail or by dropping them in our Drop Box outside our office. If you have questions about the forms, you can always call her for guidance. Your Judicial Assistant has access to a basic ZOOM videoconferencing account in case you would like a videoconference with her. These measures will provide optimum safety for you and your Judicial Assistant by avoiding an in-person office appointment.
What if my relative dies with a Will but has no property?

If your relative was a resident of Greenville County and you are in possession of the original Last Will and Testament, you are required by state law to file the Will in our office within 30 days of your relative's death even if there is no property. In addition to the Will, you must file proof of death (certified copy of death certificate). Finally, you will have a filing fee totaling $20.00; $10.00 for the filing of the Will and $10.00 for the required notice in the Greenville News. The Court Information Specialists can mail or email you a Form 306 ES to complete this simple process. You can complete this and mail it back to us. We need your original signature.

This process does not determine the validity of the Will. As a result, should property be discovered more than 10 years from the date of death of the deceased, the property will be distributed as if the deceased died without a Will.

To preserve the Will in the event future property is discovered, you will need to complete Form 300 ES through page 4.

COVID SAFETY MEASURE: By completing this form online, then printing, signing, and returning it to us by mail, you will avoid having an in-person visit. You can also avoid having to locate a Notary Public if you sign this Certification form and include it with your Form 306 or Form 300.

What if my relative dies and only has some cash and personal property?
  • Initial Filings:

    Original Will or No Will
    $10.00 filing fee
    $10 for News Ad
    Form 420 Small Estate Form

If your relative did not own any interest in land or a house and had personal property such as a car, boat, mobile home, cash in bank accounts, refunds, etc. altogether valued at less than $25,000.00, you may be able to settle your relative’s estate by using Form 420 Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property Pursuant to Small Estate Proceedings. The Judicial Assistant assigned to these special proceedings can assist you with this.

What if my relative died without any property and had no Will?

There is no reason to file anything with us or take any other steps unless property is discovered later or you become advised that legal action is needed on behalf of the deceased. A creditor of the deceased may open an estate if the family chooses not to open an estate.

How much does all of this cost?

All fees to the Probate Court are set by state law. Probate Fees are to be paid from the assets of the estate prior to distribution to beneficiaries.

Click here for the Fee Schedule

If you need the services of an attorney or other professionals, those fees and costs are in addition to the state mandated fees. Generally those fees are paid from estate assets; but, there are exceptions. For further information, please discuss this with your attorney.