My wife recently died without a will. All her assests were jointly with me. Do I need a lawyer to handle the estate?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Seneca, SC

Our joint assets were a house, a van, and a checking account. All assets had an "or" between the names.

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Lloyd Wayne Patterson

    Contributor Level 14


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I also am very sorry for your loss. It is unusual for real estate to be titled with "or" between the names. While this is acceptable for the vehicle and the checking account, it would probably be held to be a tenancy in common rather than as a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. Real estate is handled differently. You should have a probate or real estate attorney review the deed since you don't want a problem with clear title later on. You also need to consider how to properly handle your own estate now that she has passed. Even if you do have to open an estate, the procedure is fairly simple in South Carolina and you could probably handle it on your own except for the drafting of the deed of distribution.

    This answer is for general advice. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. For... more
  2. Ian Andrew Taylor

    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It may cost money, unless you can find a free consultation. many probate attorneys would provide free consultations. The attorney could run through the estate with you to determine if there are any assets or debts that you may have missed. At the very least, as the other attorneys pointed out they could help you determine whether you need to open an estate to transfer the real estate.

    There may be the need for filing documents with the register of deeds, and or opening an estate to collect property or record evidence of transfer of the real property. An attorney can help you with this.
    Good Luck,

    Ian A. Taylor
    The Taylor Law Office L.L.C. | (843) 314-4313
    Pawleys Island, SC
    Estates. Probate. Adult Guardianship. Landlord-Tenant. Insurance.

    The Rules of Professional Conduct for my state only allow me to provide general legal information regarding your... more
  3. James P. Frederick

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Usually, joint property passes to the surviving joint tenant without going through an estate. An attorney needs to review the title on your house, however, because if all it says is you OR your wife, that could be construed in many states as a tenancy in common. That is a relatively rare way for married people to hold title, but if that is what you have, your wife's share would need to go through probate. Many states have a presumption that when married people hold title together, it results in a "tenancy by the entireties." If that is the case for you, then you would now be the owner.

    You should meet with an attorney at this point, anyway, in order to update YOUR estate planning. I would ask the attorney to review the title to the house, just to make sure you are okay, as is.

    I am very sorry for your loss!

    James Frederick

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and... more
  4. C Steven Moskos

    Contributor Level 14


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . First, I'm sorry for your loss. Second, the safest thing to do is to contact a probate attorney. He can tell you what to do. If she did not have a will, part of the assets will go to you and part will go to her children. If no children, you would inherit everything. You will still need to file paperwork with the probate court. They have all the forms and they will try to help you. Good luck.

    The information provided should not be considered legal advice. I am not licensed to practice in any State other... more
  5. Evan Kyle Guthrie

    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . A South Carolina probate attorney may be able to help with the paperwork involved with the deed of distribution for the house to take it from joint title to title in one person's name.

    Evan Guthrie Law Firm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of South Carolina. The Evan Guthrie Law Firm practices in the areas of estate planning probate wills living trust special needs trusts personal injury accident and divorce and family law and entertainment law. For further information visit his website at . Forbes Findlaw Google + Evan Guthrie Law Firm 164 Market Street Suite 362 Charleston SC 29401 843-926-3813

    This answer is for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-... more

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