Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: What estate planning documents should I have?
A:
Everyone should consider a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney and Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death (or Living Will).

Q: In South Carolina, how is the property of a deceased citizen distributed if there is no will?
A:
If one dies without a will, the laws of intestate succession control probate property. Generally, the property passes in accordance with the deceased's family tree (unless there are non-probate transfers). 

Q: What is required for one to apply for a marriage license in this state?
A:
A person must be at least 18 years of age or have parental consent. You will need your original Social Security card and a Photo ID. The license is normally issued following the mandatory 24-hour waiting period once the application is filed and after the $60.00 cash fee is paid.

Q: What are the requirements for having a legal will?
A:
The document must be in writing, signed by the testator, who is at least 18 years old. You must also have two witnesses, who are not beneficiaries of the will. You should consult a Probate Attorney.

Q: Where are you located?
A:
We are located at 5200 East Jim Bilton Blvd in St. George, SC.  We are in the Dorchester County Courthouse, second (2nd) floor.

Q: Is there an estate open?
A:
You can come into the court at any time to find out if we have an estate open or go to http://www.southcarolinaprobate.net/search.

Q: What is your mailing address?
A:
5200 East Jim Bilton Blvd., St. George, SC 29477

Q: Can you send me the paper work?
A:
Yes.  Forms are also located on this website.

Q: What is the difference in a regular estate and a small estate?
A:
A regular estate is when the decedent owned real estate or had assets valued at more than twenty-five thousand dollars.  A small estate is when the decedent owned no real estate and the total assets are valued at less than twenty-five thousand dollars.

Q: How can I be appointed as the power of attorney for someone?
A:
You will need to contact an attorney for the proper documents to be drafted.  Please refer to the list of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Q: Do I need an appointment to open an estate?
A:
No, we will be glad to assist you at your convenience.  Estates are opened 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.

Q: Are Probate records available for the public to review?
A:
Yes, you can view Probate records in our office located at 5200 East Jim Bilton Blvd., St. George, SC 29477. We are in the Dorchester County Courthouse, second (2nd) floor. You can also visit http://www.southcarolinaprobate.net/search.

Q: Does it cost to file a claim?
A:
No, there is no fee to file a claim, although you will need to make sure that the estate has been opened in our office in order to file your claim. All claims need to be filed on Form #371ES.

Q: How much does it cost to open an estate?
A:
The fee to start an informal probate is always $25.00. The fee to begin a conservatorship or guardianship is $150.00 ($300.00 if they need to do both conservator and guardian). If paying by check, those funds should be payable to "Dorchester County Probate Court". Please refer to Filing Fees.

Q: What is probate for?
A:
Probate is to transfer assets out of the decedent's name to the proper heirs.

Q: What is the process?
A:
This process varies according to the decedent's date of death, what the value of the estate is and whether or not the matter is contested. Each situation is unique. Your individual situation is best discussed with your attorney.

Q: What are the fees to Probate an estate?
A:
Probate fees vary according to the value of the estate. Please refer to the Filing Fees page on this site, for assistance in calculating the fee.

Q: How long does it usually take to be appointed as a personal representative?
A:
We try to issue the appointment within one to two business days, however, if you need an appointment sooner, we will be glad to try and accommodate you.

Q: How long does it take to probate the estate?
A:
A regular estate will take at least eight months because that is the time period that an estate must stay open for creditor's claims, by state law. You should allow at least a year for an non-taxable and uncontested estate to close. A small estate will be administered within a day but cannot be filed until thirty days after the date of death.

Q: I just had a will drawn up; can I file it in your office?
A:
A will is not filed in our office until the person is deceased.

Q: Do I have to obtain an attorney in order to probate an estate?
A:
We do not require you to obtain an attorney, but we do advise that an attorney is always helpful because probate can be a very confusing and complicated process.

Q: Is there very much paper work involved?
A:
There are several forms that are required. Your estate clerk can assist in the process but will not be able to fill the forms out for you.

Q: Do life insurance policies that are payable to a beneficiary have to go through Probate?
A:
Life insurance policies payable to a beneficiary must be reported on your Inventory and Appraisement but are not calculated in when calculating filing fees. The transfer of that asset should be dealt with by the beneficiary of the policy and the company or agency providing the benefit.

Q: Do I have to type the information on the forms?
A:
It is always helpful to have the form typed or printed on the computer but it is not required.

Q: Do I have to publish the decedent's death in the paper?
A:
This Court provides the form for the Personal Representative to submit to the newspaper. The PR is responsible for submitting the form and payment directly to the paper. This Court uses either the Dorchester Eagle Record or the Summerville Journal Scene. This process is not required for Small Estates.

Q: What paper will it be published in?
A:   
This Court uses either the Dorchester Eagle Record or the Summerville Journal Scene.  The Personal Representative can choose one of the two.  This process is not required for Small Estates.

Q: How long do creditors have to file a claim?
A:
Eight months from the first date of publication or one year from the date of death.

Q: Where can I get a copy of a deed?
A:
The Register of Deeds Office for the county in which the property is located maintains recorded deeds. There will be a cost involved in obtaining a copy.

Q: I need a certificate from probate; what is that and how can I get that?
A:
A certificate is a Certificate of Appointment. This certifies whom the Probate Court has appointed as Personal Representative of the estate. Certificates are issued when the estate is opened. Additional copies can be made available.

Q: Do I have to open an estate account?
A:
You will need to open an estate account for assets of the estate. These funds should not be commingled into any other account until a distribution of the assets occurs. The estate account should always be interest bearing and you should request your canceled checks to be returned or request carbon copy checks.

Q: Can I pay the decedent's bills now or do I need to wait until I am appointed as Personal Representative?
A:
It is best to wait until you meet with the estate clerk for advice on how to go about paying bills.

Q: Do you issue marriage licenses to inmates?
A:
No, we do not. The law requires that both parties must appear in person to apply for a marriage license. Please refer to the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 20-1-220.

Q: Does the marriage license expire?
A:
Licenses issued by Dorchester County have no expiration date.

Q: What is the legal age to marry without parental consent?
A:
You must be 18 or older to marry without parental consent in South Carolina.

Q: Is a blood test required?
A: A blood test is NOT required in South Carolina.

Q: Do you have to be a resident of South Carolina to get married in South Carolina?
A:
No, however, if you apply for and receive a South Carolina marriage license you must marry in South Carolina.

Q: If you get a license in another state, can you be married in South Carolina?
A: No, you must marry in the state that issued your marriage license.

Q: If you live in another county, can you get your marriage license in Dorchester County?
A:
Yes, you can apply for a marriage license in any county.  You can also have the ceremony performed in any county you wish.  Once the ceremony is performed the marriage license needs to be returned to the county where you applied.  The county where you applied will be the county that issues certified copies of your license.

Q: Is there a waiting period from the time you apply for your license to the time that you can get married?
A:
There is a 24-hour waiting period from the time of application to the time the marriage license can be issued. You must apply on Thursday for a Saturday wedding. You can not pick up a marriage license on Saturday. Once you have received your marriage license, there is no further waiting period.

Q: What type of identification is required when applying for a marriage license?
A:
You must bring your original Social Security card along with one of the following types of photo identification: a Department of Transportation Issued ID, a driver's license, a military ID,  or a passport.

Q: Who can perform a marriage ceremony?
A: Only Ministers of the Gospel or accepted Jewish Rabbis and Officers authorized to administer oaths in the state are authorized to administer a marriage ceremony in this state. Please refer to South Carolina Code of Laws Section 20-1-20.

Q: What are your business hours?
A: We take applications for marriage license and new estates from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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