Loading
Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

A residential sidewalk in Charleston, South CarolinaSouth Carolina does not levy an inheritance or estate tax, but like all states, it has its own unique set of laws regarding inheritance of estates. In this detailed guide of South Carolina inheritance laws, we break down intestate succession, probate, taxes, what makes a will valid and more. If you’re planning an estate or just inherited money, it’s a good idea to work with a financial advisor. The SmartAsset advisor matching tool can match you with a financial advisor in your area who can help.

Does South Carolina Have an Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax?

There are no inheritance or estate taxes in South Carolina. It is one of the 38 states that does not have either inheritance or estate tax. However, the Palmetto State’s income tax is between 0% and 7%, the 13th-highest in the country.

Though they are similar, there are some key differences between estate taxes and inheritance taxes. Estate taxes are taken out of the deceased’s estate immediately after their passing, while inheritance taxes are imposed upon the deceased’s heirs after they have received their inheritance.

South Carolina also does not have a gift tax. Though keep in mind that the federal gift tax is applied once an individual is gifted more than $15,000 in one calendar year.

Other Necessary Tax Filings

  • Inheritance tax from another state – Even though South Carolina does not levy an inheritance or estate tax, if you inherit an estate from someone living in a state that does impart these taxes, you will be responsible for paying them.
  • Federal estate tax – The federal estate tax is applied if an inherited estate is more than $11.58 million in 2020. However, you are only taxed on the overage, not the entire estate. That tax rate can be as high as 40%.

To file any of these estate-based returns, you’ll need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS. You can do this online, by fax or via mail.

Dying with a Will in South Carolina

A saw palmetto plant

It’s always better to die with a will or die testate. That’s because leaving a valid will and last testament gives you the most control of how your estate is distributed and to whom. However, if you die without a valid will, also known as dying intestate, your estate will be subject to the state inheritance laws.

In South Carolina, the requirements for a testate will include being at least 18 years of age and of sound mind, the will must be signed by both the testator and two witnesses, it must be in writing, and it must name a beneficiary.

But even if you do have a valid will in South Carolina and want to disinherit your spouse, there are state laws that limit this – even if you have a valid will from before you were married or while you were married that did so.

An estate skips probate if it’s less than $25,000 in South Carolina. Any more than that, though, and it must go through probate to be settled. There are a few different ways probate can go. First, there’s informal probate. The most-commonly used probate procedure, this is most often utilized when all parties are getting along regarding the distribution of the estate and no disputes are anticipated.

Then there’s unsupervised formal probate, which must go through the court, in which the judge must approve some actions regarding the distribution of the estate. Then you have supervised formal probate, in which the court oversees every aspect of the probate process.

South Carolina adheres to the Uniform Probate Code, a standardized set of probate procedures used across 15 states.

Dying Without a Will in South Carolina

Dying without a valid will and testament in South Carolina means your estate is subject to the state’s inheritance laws or intestate succession laws. This means your assets will likely have to go through probate, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

Generally speaking, your assets will go to your closest living relatives under South Carolina’s intestate succession laws. Though there are some assets that don’t go through probate under state inheritance laws, such as property in a living trust, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, transfer-on-death accounts or payable-on-death accounts, or jointly owned property.

Spouses in South Carolina Inheritance Law

Girls walking on a South Carolina beachSpousal inheritance laws in South Carolina are relatively straightforward. If you live in South Carolina and die without a valid will and have only a surviving spouse (but no children), your spouse gets everything. If you have children and you die intestate in South Carolina, your spouse inherits half of your estate while your children get the other half.

Children in South Carolina Inheritance Law

In South Carolina, if you die without a valid will and last testament and have both a surviving spouse and children, then your spouse claims half your estate while the children split the other half. How much each child is entitled to depends on how many children there are.

Remember, children are entitled to part of your intestate estate in South Carolina only if they are legally recognized children. That means they must be legally adopted, born within marriage, and those born outside of marriage if a marriage later occurred or paternity was established. South Carolina does not recognize common law marriage. Grandchildren are also eligible to receive a share if your child has passed before you.

Intestate Succession: Spouses and Children
Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property
Spouse, but no children – Entire estate to spouse
Children and spouse – Spouse inherits half, remaining half split between children

Unmarried Individuals Without Children in South Carolina Inheritance Law

If you are unmarried and die intestate in South Carolina and have children, your children will inherit your estate in equal shares. If the deceased has no children but has living parents, their estate will pass on to their parents.

If parents are no longer living, the estate then goes to siblings. If the deceased’s parents are no longer living and the deceased does not have siblings or they are no longer living, their estate will go to their closest living relative, which includes grandparents, grandparents’ children, great-grandparents, or great-grandparents’ children.

And as is the case in many other states, if the deceased dies without a spouse or any living relatives, their estate will escheat. In other words, it would go back to the state of South Carolina.

It’s important to keep in mind that the abovementioned succession scenarios are only enacted in the case of an intestate estate. If the deceased has a valid will, it will take precedence over a state’s succession law

Intestate Succession: Extended Family
Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property
Parents, but no spouse, children, or siblings – Entire estate to parents
Parents are deceased, but no spouse or children – Estate split among siblings in equal shares
No living parents or siblings – Estate goes to closest living relative, such as grandparents or great-grandparents

Non-Probate South Carolina Inheritances

There are various assets that are not subject to intestate succession laws and aren’t governed by your will. These include property in a living trust, life insurance policies, retirement account funds such as a Roth IRA, IRA, or 401(k), jointly owned property, payable-on-death bank accounts, and securities that are transfer-upon-death.

Other Situations in South Carolina Inheritance Law

A marina in Charleston, South Carolina

Like many other states, there are some interesting laws governing inheritance. For example, in order to inherit their share of your estate, an heir must outlive you by 120 hours, or half-relatives inherit the same way they would if they were whole relatives. Additionally, relatives conceived before you died but were born after you die are not eligible to inherit a portion of your estate, and finally, heirs entitled to a part of your estate will inherit said estate regardless of their immigration status.

Resources for Estate Planning

Managing your own estate, or handling the intricacies of inheriting money from the estate of a loved one, can get complicated. That’s why many people choose to work with a professional.

The SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool will pair you with as many as three nearby financial advisors equipped to handle your estate and inheritance planning needs. If you’re ready to work with a financial advisor in your area, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/DaveAlan, ©iStock.com/jaksa95, ©iStock.com/MargaretW, ©iStock.com/aimintang

Rachel Cautero Rachel Cautero writes on all things personal finance, from retirement savings tips to monetary policy, even how young families can best manage the financial challenges of having children. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Forbes, The Balance, LearnVest, SmartAsset, HerMoney, DailyWorth, The New York Observer, MarketWatch, Lifewire, The Local: East Village, a New York Times publication and The New York Daily News. Rachel was an Experian #CreditChat panelist and has appeared on Cheddar Life and NPR’s On Point Radio with Meghna Chakrabarti. She has a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University and a master's in journalism from New York University. Her coworkers include her one-year-old son and a very needy French bulldog.
Was this content helpful?
Thanks for your input!