If the decedent died without a will, you will proceed under the Intestate appointment for Personal Representative. This could be a Formal or an Informal Appointment procedure. You must have the following:
- Completed, signed and notarized Application (Informal) for Probate (Form #300ES);
- Original Death Certificate;
- Either a newspaper obituary or funeral home program;
- Copy of the most recent deeds to any real estate owned by the Decedent at the date of death (you can get copies from the Register of Deeds Office);
- Names and complete addresses of spouse, children, heirs (persons who inherit if Decedent left no will), and devisees (persons listed in the Will), and year of birth for any minors;
- If you are not a SC resident, a person located in SC must agree to be an Agent for you. Complete the Appointment of Agent for Service of Process (Form #121ES) and have it signed, in front of a witness, by the proposed Agent.
- Filing Fee in the amount of $25.00 cash or check payable to Dorchester County Probate Court.
Formal Appointment procedures are required when:
- The Petitioner does not have priority under state law to serve as the Personal Representative
- The Petitioner is a creditor
- The Petitioner claims to be a common law spouse
- There is more than one Petitioner
Once filed, the SUMMONS and Petition for Appointment (Form #300ES) must be personally served on all interested parties. Interested parties would include all heirs of the decedent (refer to the FAMILY TREE) and creditors who have filed claims with the Court.
Proof of the personal service must be filed with the Court. Interested Parties are then allowed thirty (30) days to Answer the Petition for Appointment. A hearing date will then be set by the Court. The Petitioner is also required to notify all interested parties of the hearing date and file a Proof of Delivery (Form #120PC) of the Notice with the Court. A failure to comply with the required procedures will result in a delay of the Appointment.
The process for Formal Appointment is complicated and the services of a Probate Attorney is recommended.
Informal Appointment procedures are allowed when:
- The Petitioner has priority under state law to serve as the Personal Representative
- The Petitioner has been nominated to serve as Personal Representative by someone who has priority under state law
- The Petitioner is the sole heir
- The sole heirs are Petitioning to serve together as Co- Personal Representatives
- The heirs of equal priority agree that the Petitioner should serve as Personal Representative
- The Petitioner is an heir of equal priority with others who do not agree that they should serve (ie. One of five (5) children of the deceased). The Petitioner sends out twenty (20) days notice of a hearing to all interested parties (ie. Remaining four (4) children of the deceased). Twenty (20) days have passed since the Petitioner has notified the other heirs and they have not stepped forward and responded to the Court. A response could return this to a FORMAL APPOINTMENT.
To proceed, an Application for Appointment (Form #300ES) as the Personal Representative and all Renunciation of Right to Administration forms (Form #302ES) must be filed with the Court along with a original Death Certificate and appropriate filing fee. If the decedent owned any personal property at the time of their death, a Bond may be required.