If you have not yet made your Last Will and Testament, you likely have several reasons that you believe are valid. For instance, you may think that you are too young or too poor to need a will. You may think that you will get around to estate planning when you are older and richer.

Whatever your reasons for failing to make a will, you may wish to reconsider them. Why? Because what you probably do not realize is that if you die before you make one, South Carolina laws, called the laws of intestacy, will determine who receives what portion of your assets. In other words, without a will, you have no say in who inherits from you or what they receive.

Unmarried individuals

If you have no surviving spouse when you die, your children, assuming you have any, inherit your entire estate in equal shares. If you have no children, your parents inherit your estate. Should your parents have predeceased you, then your brothers and sisters inherit your estate in equal shares. The South Carolina intestacy laws continue to detail your line of intestate succession so as to cover virtually any situation. In general, South Carolina tries to pass your estate to your closest living relative, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc. Should you have no living relatives, your estate escheats. This means it goes to the state.

Married individuals

If you have a surviving spouse when you die, he or she inherits your entire estate if you have no children. If you leave both your spouse and your children, your partner ends up with half of your estate and your children receive the remainder in equal shares. If you have children and no surviving spouse, then your children inherit your entire estate in equal shares. If a child predeceases you but has children of their own who survive you, then these grandchildren of yours inherit what would have been their parent’s share of your intestate estate.

Important definitions

Keep in mind that “children” means the following:

  • Your children born within your marriage
  • Your legally adopted children
  • Your biological children born outside of your marriage for whom you established paternity

In addition, South Carolina law defines “survivor” as a relative who outlives you by at least 120 hours.