Tax Advice for our Clients Age 50+

The decorations are down and most of the resolutions have been forgotten. What next? Tax time! Here is some very worthwhile information for our clients age 50+ from our friends at Jarrard, Nowell And Russell:

Everyone wants to save money on their taxes, and older Americans are no exception. If you’re age 50 or older, here are seven tax tips that could help you do just that.

1. Standard Deduction for Seniors. If you and/or your spouse are 65 years old or older and you do not itemize your deductions, you can take advantage of a higher standard deduction amount. There is an additional increase in the standard deduction if either you or your spouse is blind.

2. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. If you and/or your spouse are either 65 years or older–or under age 65 years old and are permanently and totally disabled–you may be able to take the Credit for Elderly or Disabled. The Credit is based on your age, filing status, and income and you must file using Form 1040 or Form 1040A to receive the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. You cannot get the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled if you file using Form 1040EZ.

You may only take the credit if you meet the following requirements:

In 2016 your income on Form 1040 line 38 must be less than $17,500 ($20,000 if married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies), $25,000 (married filing jointly and both qualify), or $12,500 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year).


The non-taxable part of your Social Security or other nontaxable pensions, annuities or disability income is less than $5,000 (single, head of household, or qualifying widow/er with dependent child); $5,000 (married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies); $7,500 (married filing jointly and both qualify); or $3,750 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse the entire year).

3. Medical and Dental Expenses Deduction. Starting in 2013, the amount of allowable medical expenses taxpayers must exceed before claiming medical expense deductions is 10 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI).

However, for tax years 2013 to 2016, the AGI threshold is still 7.5 percent of your AGI if you or your spouse is age 65 or older. You can only claim your medical and dental expenses if you itemize deductions on your federal tax return. You can’t claim these expenses if you take the standard deduction. You can include only the expenses you paid in 2016. If you paid by check, the day you mailed or delivered the check is usually considered the date of payment.

4. Retirement account limits increase. Once you reach age 50, you are eligible to contribute (and defer paying tax on) up to $24,000 in 2017 (same as 2016). The amount includes the additional $6,000 “catch up” contribution for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

5. Early Withdrawal penalty eliminated. If you withdraw money from an IRA account before age 59 1/2 you generally must pay a 10 percent penalty (there are exceptions–call for details); however, once you reach age 59 1/2, there is no longer a penalty for early withdrawal. Furthermore, if you leave or are terminated from your job at age 55 or older (age 50 for public safety employees), you may withdraw money from a 401(k) without penalty–but you still have to pay tax on the additional income. To complicate matters, money withdrawn from an IRA is not exempt from the penalty.

6. Social Security Benefits. Americans can sign up for social security benefits as early as age 62–or wait to receive full benefits at age 66 or 67 (depending on your full retirement age). For some older Americans however, social security benefits may be taxable. How much of your income is taxed depends on the amount of your benefits plus any other income you receive. Generally, the more income you have coming in, the more likely it is that a portion of your social security benefits will be taxed. Therefore, when preparing your return, it is advisable to be especially careful when calculating the taxable amount of your Social Security.

7. Higher Income Tax Filing Threshold. Taxpayers who are 65 and older are allowed an income of $1,550 more ($1,250 married filing jointly) in 2016 before they need to file an income tax return. In other words, older taxpayers age 65 and older with income of $11,850 ($23,100 married filing jointly) or less may not need to file a tax return.

Don’t hesitate to call the office (Jarrard, Nowell and Russell at 843.723.2768) if you have any questions about these and other tax deductions and credits available for older Americans.

A Resolution Worth Making: Protect Your Assets in 2017

As 2016 draws to a close, we find ourselves pondering what we should do differently in 2017. Live a healthier lifestyle? Lose weight? Spend less? Live life to the fullest? The truth is that less than 8% of us keep these resolutions because they require too much will power! What if you could instead resolve to give yourself and your family the gift of peace of mind by protecting your assets?

A clear and intelligent estate plan will ensure you and your heirs get the maximum benefit from your hard earned legacy. Equally important, it will also protect you should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Make an appointment now, and put these items at the top of your “to do” list for 2017:

Last Will – If you don’t have a will, get one. People often assume their assets will go straight to their spouse, but that isn’t the case in South Carolina. It’s no surprise that this very important family document causes many to turn a blind eye, which can be a very costly mistake, impacting the ones you love the most. Similarly, if you have a will and it hasn’t been updated in more than five years, I urge you to carefully review it to see if it needs revisions. Has there been a birth in the family, a divorce, death or relocation? All of these warrant updates.

Plan for Incapacity – Advancements in medical care are helping us live longer; however, as a result many more of us will suffer from diminished mental capacity. Having a power of attorney and health care agent in place will help your family take care of you when you’re unable to take care of yourself. Don’t make the tragic error of assuming your spouse will be available to handle making decisions or handling your financial affairs for you. More often than not, we see a couple’s health decline together or spouses involved in a simultaneous accident leaving the family unprepared to make these decisions.

Review Titles – There are a myriad of options for titling your real property (homes and other land) as well as certain personal property (cars, boats and recreational vehicles) to protect them from creditors at your death. However, each option has its pros and cons and should be discussed in detail with your attorney. For example, titling a vehicle or home jointly with rights of survivorship with your spouse is a great estate planning tool, but not recommended with children. Similarly, putting assets in a trust can be a valuable tool, however keep in mind it can increase property taxes if not handled correctly.

Confirming Beneficiaries – Bank accounts, insurance policies, retirements accounts . . . they all allow naming of beneficiaries. Consider reviewing your beneficiaries on an annual basis to ensure they fit with your overall estate plan, keeping in mind possible contingencies (such as your spouse passing away before you). As the new year begins, it’s easy to do this while collecting statements for your tax returns. It’s also a great idea to compile all of these statements in a notebook with your other estate planning documents so that your personal representative can locate them quickly and not delay funds getting to your chosen beneficiary.

These are just a few of the most important considerations for resolving in 2017 to protect your assets from probate. An estate planning attorney can quickly evaluate your circumstances and make recommendations based on your unique situation. Do you have young children for whom a guardian and trust might be recommended? Assets in another state? A blended family? A consult with an attorney will put you on track to a resolution you can accomplish and feel good about . . . and it will likely cost less than that unused gym membership.


Death & Taxes



Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

As April 15th draws near, the law offices of Provence Messervy and the CPA firm of Jarrard, Nowell & Russell often find ourselves answering questions about death and taxes in South Carolina. Here are three (3) common questions we receive and their answers:

1. Does South Carolina have estate taxes or inheritance taxes?

First, it’s important to understand the difference in these two types of taxes. Estate tax is a tax levied on the net value of the estate before it’s distributed to the heirs. An inheritance tax is a tax imposed on the people who inherit from an estate.

Residents of South Carolina have cause to celebrate when it comes to these taxes because South Carolina does not impose either tax. That being said, there are two areas where you need to be careful. First, if you inherit from someone who lived in an estate that DOES impose inheritance tax, you may receive a bill from that state. The states that impose this tax do not do so in the same manner, so it’s wise to consult with your tax professional in advance if you expect to receive this type of inheritance.

Second, the absence of a South Carolina estate tax doesn’t mean you are exempt from the federal tax. This leads to our second common question.

2. Do I still have to pay federal estate taxes if I live in a state with no estate taxes?

Yes. Living in a state that doesn’t impose these taxes does not exempt you from paying the federal government. However, there is good news in this regard. In 2016, an estate is not taxable at the federal level unless its value exceeds $5,000,000.00. For this reason, very few estates in South Carolina are forced to deal with any tax at all. However, if you are the Personal Representative of an estate valued in excess of $5,000,000,00, you need to contact both an accountant and probate attorney for advice. Similarly, if you believe your personal net worth exceeds this amount, it’s a wise investment to make sure your estate plan minimizes these taxes where allowable.

3. If there are no inheritance taxes in South Carolina, why do I have to pay income tax on the retirement accounts I received?

While it’s true that South Carolina residents don’t pay income tax on MOST inherited assets, there are exceptions to every rule. While inherited property is not considered “ordinary income” by the IRS, one exception is certain retirement accounts that were funded with pre-tax dollars. Income tax must be paid at the time these type of funds are distributed to the beneficiaries.

In conclusion, just remember not to let taxes sneak up on you. Talk to your estate planning attorney or a qualified CPA in advance about minimizing taxes at your death and preparing for any taxes you may pay as a result of an inheritance.

*Note: Thanks to Jarrard, Nowell & Russell for co-authoring this post with us and for always making themselves available to assist our clients.*


Assets that are not required to go through probate are commonly referred to as “non-probate assets.” This term causes significant confusion amongst our clients and readers. This term simply refers to any assets which transfer automatically at the time of death, and therefore aren’t considered an asset of the estate. Here are some common examples of assets that might be classified as non-probate:

  • Life insurance –If there is a proper beneficiary named on the life insurance policy, the proceeds of the life insurance do not pass through probate and instead go directly to the named beneficiary (or beneficiaries). This is one reason that life insurance is such a great estate planning tool. One caveat here: Always make sure your insurance beneficiary designations are accurate. If you get a divorce, your beneficiary predeceases you or you fail to name one, the default rule is that proceeds become payable to the estate of the policy holder. In that scenario, you’ve just failed to take advantage of a great opportunity to avoid taxes, probate fees and creditors.
  • Retirement Accounts – Most retirement accounts allow for the naming of a beneficiary. When you name a beneficiary (or two, or three), the beneficiaries are automatically entitled to the assets in the account at the time of death. Similar to life insurance policies, failing to name a beneficiary or not updating your beneficiary can destroy this benefit. It’s important to discuss with your investment advisor and attorney how these accounts should be considered in your estate planning.
  • Payable on Death (POD) Accounts – Bank and brokerage accounts can also have designated beneficiaries. While it’s advisable to make sure there is some cash in your estate to handle funeral bills, probate fees and other expenses, transferring the bulk of your cash using a POD account is a smart strategy.
  • Property Held Jointly with Rights of Survivorship – We have previous posts that cover this form of ownership in detail. For this discussion, just remember that your real property, vehicles, boats and other titled assets can be set up in this structure so that upon death, the interest automatically conveys to the other owners. While this is great for a spouse or to transfer assets to an only child, make sure to understand why you should be careful when using this as an estate planning tool if you’re single, remarried or have more than one child! More information on that can be found on here.
  • Trust Assets – Any asset transferred to a trust prior to death is considered a non-probate asset. The reason is simple, probate only controls assets owned by the decedent at his/her time of death. Assets in a trust are in control of the trust, not the decedent, and therefore don’t require probate.

This information is important both for Personal Representatives handling an estate and for clients doing estate planning. The rules that must be filled to keep them classified as “non-probate” also highlight the importance of checking your titles, beneficiaries and estate plan regularly to make sure everything is in place. So many events can trigger a need to update your planning including the birth of a child, divorce, death of a beneficiary, change of employment, purchase of property and more.

Dealing with the DMV

Let’s face it, no one looks forward to dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. This can be even more stressful when coupled with the loss of a loved one. We frequently receive questions on transferring title to vehicles (this includes boats, RV’s, etc.) that are part of an estate. In some instances this may or may not include a mobile home. Here is some information to help you along:

In August 2011, the Department of Motor Vehicles changed its procedures. Previously a form called an Affidavit of Inheritance was required to transfer title to a vehicle. Under the current procedure, you will need the original title, along with DMV Form 400, and the appropriate fee. Other documents you need to complete this transaction will depend on (a) how the vehicle is titled and (b) the value of the estate/other assets. Determining these up front will make sure you have what you need to have before you head to the DMV.

A. HOW IS THE VEHICLE TITLED? There a three (3) options for how a vehicle can be titled:

  1. SOLE OWNERSHIP: If Decedent’s name is the only one of the title, then he/she was the sole owner of the vehicle. It does not matter who drove the vehicle or who paid taxes on the vehicle. This means that the vehicle will pass through the Estate, see (b) below to determine value of the estate.
  2. JOINT OWNERSHIP / TENANTS IN COMMON: If the deceased owned the vehicle with someone else and the names are listed using “and”, the vehicle is owned as tenants in common. The decedent’s interest (50% when 2 owners) passes through the estate according to the will or intestacy. See below (b) to further determine what documents you need to proceed.
  3. JOINT OWNERSHIP WITH RIGHTS OF SURVIVORSHIP: If the deceased owned the vehicle with someone else and the names are listed using “or”, then it is owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship. We have explained the differences between joint tenants with rights of survivorship and tenants in common in a previous post. If this is the case, all that is needed is the original title showing the “or” relationship and the DMV Form 400. You do not need to worry about the value of the estate in this scenario as the vehicle is a non-probate asset and will transfer directly to the other owner.


  1. $25,000 OR LESS: If the value of the estate is $25,000 or less, a certified copy of the Affidavit of Collection for Personal Property (a “small estate affidavit”) is needed to transfer title in addition to the Form 400. If you haven’t opened the estate the Probate Court or your attorney will assist you in determining if you qualify for a small estate.
  2. GREATER THAN $25,000: If the value of the estate is greater than $25,000 or for other reasons did not qualify for a small estate, an original Certificate of Appointment from the Probate Court less than one year old is needed in addition to the Form 400. The Personal Representative may reassign the title as directed by the Will or under the intestacy statute.

If you have specific questions regarding how to handle a vehicle or mobile home, consultation with an experienced probate attorney may be helpful. These guidelines are also important to keep in mind when acquiring a new vehicle or creating an estate plan.

Parents of Illegitimate Children in Probate (To Receive or Not to Receive Part II)

In a previous post, we discussed how illegitimacy affects the share of a child in probate. However, in some instances it’s the death of a child that raises a different issue . . . who benefits from the estate of a child? Who is entitled to serve as Personal Representative? Who can bring legal action on behalf of the child’s estate?

Determining the heirs of a young child can be a complex issue in a society of single parent homes, children being raised in foster care and blended families. First, remember that parents of a child will only inherit from the child if the child was not old enough to have a spouse or children of their own. For further information on the basics of when the parents are heirs, see our series on “Am I an Heir?” Part 1 and Part 2. In this post, we’re generally referring to the estate of a young child who has neither spouse nor children and therefore the parents are presumed to be the heirs. Many people may wonder how a young child can even have an estate (especially if they weren’t old enough to own assets) but this usually occurs when a child dies as a result of an accident and the assets in question stem from a lawsuit or insurance that pays to the estate.

South Carolina Code § 62-2-109 governs when a parent-child relationship exists for inheritance purposes. A child born out of wedlock is always the child of the mother. Absent a termination of the mother’s parental rights, the surviving mother of a deceased child is presumed to be an heir of the estate. Fathers; however, can prove more difficult.

The common law in South Carolina for many years provided that the father had no obligation to provide support of an illegitimate child. See McGlohon v. Harlan, 254 S.C. 207, 211, 174 S.E.2d 753, 755 (1970). A child is also the child of the father if: (1) the natural parents participated in a marriage ceremony, even if the attempted marriage is void; or (ii) paternity is established by adjudication. However, S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-109(2)(ii) contains a wrinkle to paternity by adjudication. In order for the putative father to inherit from or through the child, he must have openly treated the child as his and not refused to support the child.  Further, if either or both of the parents’ parental rights have been terminated, they are not eligible to inherit from or through the child.

Often in the case of children, adjudication of paternity occurs in connection with child support or child custody proceedings in family court. A birth certificate containing the signatures of the mother and putative father creates a rebuttable presumption of paternity. S.C. Code Ann.  § 63-17-60(A)(6).

However, where the adjudication of paternity is occurring after the death of the child, a finding of paternity will require that the father did not refuse to support the child (this would include the payment of child support), as well as acknowledgement of paternity by the father during the child’s lifetime.

As a note for our legal readers, the burden of proof for these matters, whether the decedent is the putative father or the illegitimate child, is clear and convincing evidence. This can be a difficult standard to meet in the absence of DNA evidence. Frank discussion with clients is important before appearing at your hearing.

In conclusion, if you’re dealing with the death of a child (as a parent or legal counsel), it’s wise to understand the complex issues that can arise if there is a question of paternity, a termination of parental rights, an adoption or a failure to support the child. It’s wise to get a probate attorney involved early that can guide you through these issues.

What is an “Information to Heirs and Devisees?”

In a previous post, we discussed the Personal Representative’s duty to inform by issuing the Information to Heirs and Devisees. This is a state prescribed form, 305ES. Today, we will look at this form from the recipient’s perspective.

This form is sent to both the heirs and the devisees of the decedent’s estate. The heirs are the decedent’s heirs under the intestacy statute. We discussed South Carolina’s intestacy scheme in previous posts. Devisees are those individuals named in the decedent’s Will. If you have received one of these forms, you fall into one of these groups. Receipt of this form does not guarantee you will inherit from the estate.

In some cases, the heirs and devisees overlap significantly. For example, the deceased may have a surviving spouse and children. Their Will divides the estate between the spouse and children. In this case, all the heirs are also the devisees. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, then there will be no devisees, and only the heirs at law will receive the form.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will receive anything from the estate. The function of this form is to notify these groups of potential recipients that an estate has been opened and where it has been opened. It also lists the name and contact information for the appointed Personal Representative. Once you receive the form you should consider yourself on notice and take any steps necessary to protect your interest in the estate. This is not the time to “sit and wait” as many actions must be filed within six (6) months from the date the Personal Representative was appointed.

Ultimately, whether you receive anything from the estate depends not only on the terms of the Will, whether or not you are an heir or devisee, the outcome of any litigation and any creditor’s claims. If you’ve received one of these notices, it’s wise to schedule a consult with an attorney who handles these issues so you can be aware of your rights.

Common Probate Terms | A Helpful Glossary



Beneficiary– a person who has any present or future interest, vested or contingent in a trust. Also includes any person entitled to enforce a charitable trust.


Ceremonial marriage– also known as statutory marriages; those marriages entered in compliance with S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-10 et seq. Ceremonial marriage requires an application for a license, a 24 hour waiting period between the application and issuance of the license, performance of a marriage ceremony by an authorized official, a lack of impediments, and consummation by cohabitation.


Child– any individual entitled to take as a child by intestate succession from a parent but excludes individuals who are only stepchildren, foster children, grandchildren or any other more remote descendant


Common-law marriage– a form of marriage where the parties did not engage in a ceremonial (or statutory) marriage, but which meets certain requirements. The existence of a common law marriage must be determined by either the Family Court or Probate Court. A common law marriage has the same rights and obligations as a ceremonial or statutory marriage. The requirements for a common law marriage are an intention evidencing an actual and mutual agreement to live publicly together as husband and wife, consummation by cohabitation, and a lack of impediments.


Conservator– a person appointed by a court to manage the estate of a protected person. A conservator is appointed after a formal proceeding to determine if a person is an incapacitated person, or to secure the administration of the estates of an incapacitated person or minor.


Devise– noun- a testamentary disposition of real or personal property; verb- to dispose of real or personal property by will


Devisee– any person designated to receive property in a will.


Elective share– the right of a surviving spouse to elect to take one third of the decedent’s probate estate, to be satisfied from all benefits provided to the spouse whether under or outside the will.


Executor– also known as Personal Representative.


Guardian ad litem– literally, “guardian for litigation”; an attorney appointed to represent the alleged incapacitated in a proceeding for appointment of incapacity and be the eyes and ears of the court.


Guardian– a person who has qualified as a guardian of an incapacitated person pursuant to a testamentary or court appointment. A guardian is appointed after a formal proceeding to determine if a person is an incapacitated person.


Heir– a person entitled under the laws of intestate succession to receive the property of the decedent.


Incapacitated person– a person who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, or other cause (except minority) to the extent that he lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his person or property.


Intestate– someone who died without a valid will.


Issue– all of a person’s lineal descendants whether natural or adopted where a parent child relationship is determined at each generation.


Parent– any person who is entitled to take or would be entitled to take as a parent under the laws of intestate succession.


Per stirpes– a different word for the term “by representation”. By representation is a way of counting heads to find heirs. Under South Carolina’s version of by representation shares are determined at the first degree of kinship where a living person is found. One share is set aside for each living person, and one for each predeceased person who was survived by issue.


Personal representative- includes executor, administrator, successor personal representative, special administrator, and persons who perform substantially the same function under the law governing their status.


Power of attorney– a writing by a principal designating another person to act as his attorney in fact to act on their behalf. The authority of the attorney in fact to act on behalf of the principal must be set forth in the power and may relate to any act, power, duty, right or obligation which the principal has or may acquire relating to the principal or any matter, transaction, or property. The attorney in fact has a fiduciary relationship with the principal and is accountable and responsible as a fiduciary.


Special administrator– a personal representative appointed by the court when necessary:

  • to protect the estate prior to the appointment of a general personal representative or successor personal representative after a prior personal representative’s appointment has been terminated;
  • or a creditor of the estate to institute a proceeding regarding a claim against the estate under certain circumstances as provided in 62-3-803;
  • in a formal action, to preserve the estate prior to the appointment of a personal administrator; or
  • in a formal action, to secure proper administration of the estate (or act on behalf of the estate) where the general personal representative cannot or should not act (such as in the case of a conflict of interest).


Spouse– the surviving spouse under a valid ceremonial or common-law marriage.


Testate– dying with a valid Will.


Trust– a form of property ownership where legal and equitable title is split. In a trust, a trustee holds the legal title to the property for the use and enjoyment of the trust beneficiaries. A trust under the South Carolina Probate Code refers to an express trust, but not a constructive trust, resulting trust or other special types of trust specifically excluded by statute.

Joint Bank Accounts In Probate Court

Well-intentioned family members often add a loved one to their bank accounts. There are a variety of reasons this may occur: shared expenses, planning for final expenses, long-term care concerns, or a potential for future incapacity. In many of these instances, one individual contributes most or all of the funds to the account. After death, the question then arises among family members and heirs as to whether these funds are part of the decedent’s estate or pass directly to the other person named on the account.

Here’s the typical scenario we see: Dad passed several years ago. Mom has three children but only one of them lives nearby. Mom adds the local child (Child A) on her checking and savings account so that Child A can help make sure the bills get paid, handle the account during her absence or illness and then “do the right thing” when she dies. Child B and C are aware of the arrangement but have been told by mom and Child A that this is just for convenience. At Mom’s death, Child A goes to the bank and personally claims all of the funds and declares they are hers as joint owner of the account. The funds comprise the bulk of mom’s estate which was to be divided equally. An argument and threats of litigation begin . . .

In this scenario, it is important to remember that bank accounts are ultimately governed by the account agreement with the financial institution. They should always be your first stop when trying to determine the true ownership of your accounts (when setting up this type of arrangement) or the first stop for a Personal Representative trying to determine whether or not these funds belong to the estate.

The account agreements at many financial institutions now provide that multiple owner accounts are owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. You may recall we previously discussed the two types of joint property ownership in South Carolina. As a quick recap, owning property as joint tenants with right of survivorship (a mouthful but a useful tool in estate planning) gives each joint owner an equal interest in the property. At the death of the first joint owner (mom in our scenario), their share belongs equally to the surviving joint owner(s) automatically (Child A). Therefore, Child B and C would not have access to these funds nor would the Probate Court have jurisdiction over them as they are a non-probate asset.

In researching this post, we reviewed the consumer account agreements at several major banks. All provided for ownership of joint accounts as joint tenants with right of survivorship as the default (or sometimes only) option. Again, this means that these assets pass directly to the other person whose name appears on the account, and are NOT an asset of the estate. The result is that accounts are opened with rights of survivorship even when that may not be the intent of the original account holder.

In addition to the account agreement, recent amendments to the South Carolina Probate Code provide a general set of rules to apply in these situations. The Probate Code’s default rule for accounts with multiple owners is also to consider them joint ownership with right of survivorship.

So what does this mean for the estate? Unfortunately, the answer is: it depends. Most likely, the account belongs to the surviving joint owner unless the designation on the account agreement indicates a different result.

If a dispute has arisen as to ownership of a decedent’s account, consultation with an experienced probate attorney may be helpful. Despite these rules, sufficient evidence of a different intent by the Decedent may be able to reverse this outcome. More importantly, we suggest our estate planning clients be aware of these rules when deciding whether or not to create joint accounts or how much funds to place in them.

Understanding Summary Administration

Similar to a small estate, summary administration is another abbreviated process available in the probate court under certain limited situations.

For a variety of reasons, the same person wears may be both the Personal Representative as well as the only heir at law or devisee under the Will. Often this arises when a person dies with little family remaining (think only child), or, more commonly, when the first spouse dies giving the survivor everything in their Will.  After a point in the probate process, this individual may be the person both sending and receiving all notices regarding the estate.  That seems a little silly—sending a notice to yourself.

Fortunately, the Probate Code allows for a shortcut: summary administration. In summary administration, after certain requirements are met (generally notice to creditors), the Personal Representative files a document with the Court called a “closing statement” instead of the traditional closing documents. The court then waits one year and, if no claims or proceedings are pending, the Personal Representative’s appointment will terminate. This streamlined process reduces paperwork and expedites the process for sole heirs who also serve as the Personal Representative.

To qualify for summary administration, certain requirements must be met.  An experienced probate attorney can help determine if this is an option for your loved one’s estate. Please contact us with any questions or to schedule a consultation!