Last Will & Testament Laws in South Carolina

by Beverly Bird
    South Carolina’s estate laws contain the usual safeguards against divorced spouses.

    South Carolina’s estate laws contain the usual safeguards against divorced spouses.

    Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

    In South Carolina, wills must be in a printed format and signed by the testator, the person making the will, who must also be over 18 years of age and have the mental capacity to know what he is doing. Those younger than 18 may also make a will if they are married or otherwise emancipated from their parents by an order from family court.

    Witnesses

    The number of witnesses to a will in South Carolina depends on the nature of the will. If the testator cannot sign her own name, then she can direct someone else to do it for her in the presence of two additional witnesses. If the testator can sign her own name, then only two witnesses are required. If one of the witnesses is a beneficiary, however, then an additional witness is necessary. Alternatively, if the beneficiary witness is a close relative, he can waive his right to his inheritance and accept instead anything he would have received if the deceased had passed away without a will.

    Formats

    South Carolina accepts self-proved wills. A self-proved will is one that includes a notarized statement signed by the testator and his witnesses, and attests to the validity of the will. This eliminates some steps of having the will admitted to probate later. Neither oral or handwritten wills are valid in South Carolina. The state makes no special provisions for members of the military to transfer property via an oral, or nuncupative, bequest during times of active duty. Some holographic, or handwritten, wills are accepted, however, if made in another state that accepts them.

    Disinheritance

    You can disinherit almost anyone in South Carolina by stating precisely in your will that this is your intention. The exception is your spouse. Surviving spouses are entitled by law to one-third of the testator’s estate after payment of debts and costs of probate. If you leave your spouse any less than this, he can elect to take the one-third portion instead up to eight months after your death or six months after your will enters probate, whichever occurs later.

    Effect of Divorce

    A divorce -- though not necessarily a legal separation from your spouse -- nullifies any bequests made to her in a will made prior to the divorce. An appointment as executor is also revoked. However, if you remarry that person, those portions of your will become reinstated and your spouse is once again entitled to the one-third share of your estate if your bequest to her is any less than that.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

    Photo Credits

    • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images