Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THANK YOU, Ethics Chairman Kenny Bingham, for your bill regarding South Carolina's time limit on wills.

Update 6/3/2016 - I've decided to re-publish a previous post regarding events leading up to the publication of this post.

I e-mailed Kenneth A. "Kenny" Bingham (House Representative for my district, and chairman of the Ethics Committee), asking if any efforts were underway to eliminate placing time limits on wills, and I mentioned that many states had no limits. He e-mailed back immediately, asking for specifics regarding my situation. Here's a copy of my reply:

Dear Mr. Bingham,

Many thanks for your interest and your efforts.

I'm an only child, sole heir, age 70, and have lived in South Carolina most of my life. My mother died in 2002 at age 86, a year after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The property deed is in all three of our names (we each purchased a third), and each of us had wills leaving our share to each other and naming each other as executors. We all three lived at the residence since purchasing it in the late 70s, and all financial accounts were joint with right of survivorship.

When my mother died, I was devastated, but I was honored to accept full-time-care-giving-duties for my dad. I was totally unfamiliar with the probate process - all relatives are in distant states out west - and I could discern no immediate reason to have my mother's will probated. To the best of my knowledge, the matter involved no time limits and could be resolved by little more than taking death certificates to the Register of Deeds. In 2010, my dad died at home at age 92.

Several years after my dad died, I contacted Lexington County Probate Court and was told that my mother's will was no longer valid and I would have to hire a lawyer. I was told that I could not represent myself in the matter - something I now know is technically incorrect, but intestate requirements (Determination of Heirs) are indeed beyond the expertise of most folks. Attorney fees to resolve my situation are in the $2,000 range, and as you may imagine, I have been in quite a quandary regarding how to proceed.

I think my situation demonstrates that each case is unique. This is no doubt why other states - including Florida, Virginia, and Oregon - have no time limits, and why Pennsylvania has a limit of 21 years. Everyone I've spoken with is unaware of South Carolina's current 10-year limit and is shocked and dismayed to learn of it. I don't think South Carolina had any such limits prior to 1986.

Any assistance you can offer will be deeply appreciated.


Parris Boyd

Chairman Bingham referred me to Emma Dean, an attorney who works with the House Judiciary Committee, and the two of them prepared a bill aimed at helping me, and people in situations similar to mine. Chairman Binghams's bill has now been submitted to the Judiciary Committee.

Saying that I appreciate the efforts of Chairman Bingham and attorney Dean is certainly an understatement. I hope the South Carolina legislature will pass Chairman Bingham's bill without delay.

Update 1/20/2017 - All for naught. Chairman Bingham retired last year, and I've heard nothing further about the bill he introduced.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.