How to Sell a House Without Going Through Probate
With the death of a loved one, comes not only dealing with the loss but also the estate and the handling of all of the issues that are involved with that. For many this can be a complicated process.

One of the first steps that is frequently required after the death of someone is to open what is called a probate. The purpose of probate is to prevent fraud after a death. Basically probate freezes the estate to verify the will is valid and to make sure all the family members and beneficiaries have been notified of the death. Usually a person, which might be the surviving spouse, other family member of attorney is appointed by the court if there is no will or the court nominates the person that is outlined in the will. This person then becomes the executor or Personal Representative of the estate and is then able to manage the assets as well as handle any bills, expenses real estate and the sale of any assets including real estate.

When real estate is involved, attempting to sell property prior to completing the probate process is difficult. However, depending upon the estate, there are a few possibilities to be explored that would enable real estate to be handled and sold outside of the probate process, saving time and money for everyone!

One option for handling estate issues and property is the creation of what is called a “living trust”. In fact, living trusts were specifically created as a means to avoid probate after a death. Living trusts generally hold large assets of an estate such as real estate.

For those of us in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina the assets within a living trust won’t have to go through probate with one exception - if the assets in the estate that are outside of the living trust, and not included, exceed South Carolina’s small estate’s threshold limit. That threshold is currently set at a $25,000 limit. In that instance, probate would be required prior to the assets and estate being transferred to the heirs. Making sure that the assets outside the trust do not exceed the maximum level is critical.

If your property is in a living trust and meets the criteria, then selling the assets does not require going through probate.

Jointly Held Real Estate
A very common practice for estate management of real estate is what’s called joint tenancy. Jointly held real estate, or joint tenancy with right of survivorship, are assets where if one party or “joint tenant” dies, the surviving joint tenant or tenants become the owners of the entire asset. This is called the “right of survivorship”. This right of survivorship makes it a popular option for estate planning and is commonly used.

Legally, any property held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship would not fall within the handling of the estate and would also not be included in probate since the property automatically becomes the property of the survivors. The key point in this option is to insure that “the right of survivorship” is included and specified.

The remaining “tenants” are able to manage, maintain or sell the property without incurring any of the costs of probate.

Transfer on Death
For some assets, South Carolina allows you to set up the assets so that the accounts or assets “transfer on death”. Bank accounts and stock or other securities are eligible for that type of transfer. Unfortunately, real estate is not included in that list of eligible assets.

Small Estate
If you are handling the estate or are the Executor of an estate of a South Carolina resident who died, you might avoid the costs and time involved in going through a lengthy probate process if the assets of the estate are worth less than a certain dollar amount.

Under this scenario having a will is not part of the equation, simply the dollar value of the estate. If it fits within what is termed a “small estate” you can go through what is called “summary probate” – a simplified probate process. You could potentially avoid going into court and simply have to fill out a few forms and affidavits and submit them before moving forward with the estate.

Current dollar value of the estate for South Carolina must be under $25,000 in order to qualify for meeting the small estate rule. Assets held in joint tenancy, retirement plans or any asset that is payable-on-death or transfer-on-death do not need to be included.

While probate was setup and designed to protect the assets as well as the heirs of the estate, it can be time consuming and costly to go through. Exploring options that might enable you or your heirs to avoid the process is definitely a financially wise decision.

Whether the estate does go through probate or not, once the estate is “settled”, the Executor is then able to transfer or sell assets including real estate. In order to obtain the best value for any asset it is important to speak with experienced professionals and for real estate, getting an expert such as Jake Lee to assist would be a smart move!

To learn more, check out,  or call your local real estate expert ( #JakeLeeRealEstate ) at 843-240-0431