South Carolina Inheritance Laws: What You Should Know

The South Carolina Bar reports that 55% of South Carolinians do not have a will, and this lack of estate planning documents often causes confusion and family strife. Although you can avoid probate by naming beneficiaries on your accounts, it may not be enough as it won’t apply to all of your assets.

While South Carolina inheritance laws do recognize adopted children as equal to biological children, stepchildren and foster children do not automatically inherit unless they are legally adopted. From determining the distribution of assets in the absence of a will to the specific rights granted to spouses and children, there are many things you need to know about South Carolina’s inheritance law that can secure your estate’s future. 

Many people often ask, “Is putting my house in trust a good idea?” Well, the short answer is yes but there are pros and cons that you might need to look out for to determine if this is the right move. 

One of the pros is putting your house in trust, so you can avoid probate but what about the cons? Putting your house in trust is a complex process that often takes a long time. That’s why so many people don’t really make an effort to do it. 

In this article, we will learn about South Carolina inheritance laws and their legal implications. 

Overview of South Carolina Inheritance Laws

South Carolina follows specific guidelines for inheritance, which affect how property is passed on to heirs. The state upholds the principle of intestate succession if there’s no valid will in place. This means that assets will be distributed according to predetermined rules, usually giving preference to spouses and children.

In South Carolina, spouses are entitled to a sizable portion of the deceased’s estate, so they will be well taken care of. Children also hold a prominent position in the line of succession, receiving a share of the estate if there’s no surviving spouse. If there are no living relatives, the state may claim the property through the process of escheat.

South Carolina inheritance laws cover various types of assets, including real estate, financial accounts, personal belongings, and more. You can secure a smooth transfer of assets to the rightful beneficiaries and make the inheritance procedure easier by becoming familiar with these requirements. 

Types of Assets Covered

In South Carolina, the laws cover a variety of assets that can be passed down to heirs.

  • Inheritance Laws: This applies to all real estate holdings, including primary residences, vacation homes, rental properties, and land. 
  • Personal Property: It includes vehicles, furniture, jewelry, and other possessions.
  • Financial Property: Bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies are part of the assets covered by these laws. 
  • Businesses and business interests: including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and shares in corporations, are subject to inheritance regulations as well.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: These are patents, copyrights, and royalties. 

Intestate Succession Rules

Inheritance Laws lawyers deskWhen a person dies without a will, the state’s intestacy laws come into play to dictate how their estate will be distributed. If the deceased person left behind a spouse and children, South Carolina will divide the estate among them. 

The surviving spouse will inherit all the deceased’s intestate property if there are no living descendants or if all living descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse. But if there are surviving descendants who aren’t descendants of the surviving spouse, the spouse will inherit half of the intestate property, and the other half will be distributed among the descendants.

If there’s no surviving spouse, the estate passes to the descendants. If there are no descendants, the estate goes to the deceased’s parents, then to siblings, and so forth, following the state’s predetermined order of inheritance.

Rights of Surviving Spouse and Children

In South Carolina, if there’s a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse inherits everything. If there’s a surviving spouse and children, the spouse receives half of the intestate property, while the children split the other half equally. This means that the surviving spouse is entitled to a sizeable portion of the estate when there are children involved.

South Carolina law also considers adopted children to have the same inheritance rights as biological children, emphasizing equality in inheritance laws. In cases where there’s no surviving spouse, the children inherit the entire estate equally. Knowing these rules can help you anticipate how your assets will be distributed in the absence of a will, and make sure that your loved ones are provided for according to state laws.

Estate Taxes and Probate Process

When someone passes away, their estate may be subject to estate taxes, which are taxes imposed on the transfer of a deceased person’s assets. In South Carolina, there’s no state estate tax, but it’s still necessary to be aware of federal estate tax laws.

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries and creditors. In South Carolina, the probate process can vary depending on the size of the estate and whether the deceased had a will. Small estates may qualify for simplified probate procedures, while larger estates or those without a will may require a more formal probate process.

In order to properly manage estate taxes and the probate procedure, you should consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer who can explain your legal rights and obligations under South Carolina law. You can reduce any conflicts or issues throughout the estate administration process and guarantee a smoother transition of assets by being proactive and seeking professional advice.


South Carolina inheritance laws control how assets are distributed after someone passes away, including who’s priority in receiving inheritance.

Whether you’re a surviving spouse, child, or other beneficiary, knowing these laws can help you make sense of the probate process and make sure your rights are protected. To make sure the assets of your loved ones are divided in accordance with the law, don’t be afraid to seek legal counsel.


  • gloria patterson

    I know a lot of people that should read this and think about doing it.

    I have to admit I don’t have a will but I do know what and who I want stuff to go to. On my to do list! I do have life insurance and have the beneficiary listed.

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