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If the decedent had a will (testate), within 30 days from date of death, submit the original will and a certified copy of the death certificate to the Orangeburg County Probate Court. Obtain initial paperwork from the Probate Court to begin the probate procedure. If the decedent did not have a will (intestate), obtain initial paperwork to be completed from the Orangeburg County Probate Court.
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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.
If the deceased was a permanent resident of Orangeburg County, was a non-resident holding property in Orangeburg County, or has a right to take legal action in this county the estate must be processed through the Orangeburg County Probate Court.
When someone dies without a will, their estate is called "interstate". In this case, the State delegates who inherits and in what amount.
For formal probate or appointment, an attorney is 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 the presentation of testimony. Since a hearing is not required for informal probate and/or informal appointment, an attorney is not necessary in this case.
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 (PR).
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 the service of the formal Summons/Petition, a hearing will be scheduled to determine who is the appropriate person to administer the estate.
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 heirs/devisees receive their final distributions.