The term “next of kin” is often used synonymously with “heirs at law” in South Carolina. When a South Carolina resident dies without a will, their next of kin heirs at law are those in line to inherit their intestate estate, and are generally the decedent’s:
- Surviving spouse
Who Inherits From A South Carolina Intestate Estate?
The next of kin heirs at law that inherit from a South Carolina intestate estate depend on who else survived the decedent, as set forth below:
Survivors of Decedent
Share of Intestate Estate
Surviving spouse only
– Entire estate to surviving spouse
Spouse and children of decedent
– ½ of estate to spouse
– ½ to children
Children and descendants only (no surviving spouse)
– Entire estate equally to children (descendants of deceased children take by representation)
Parents only (no surviving spouse or issue)
– Entire estate to parents
Siblings only (no parents, no children, no spouse)
– Estate equally shared by siblings
Grandparents or issue of grandparents only
– ½ of estate to paternal grandparent(s)
– ½ of estate to maternal grandparent(s)
Great-grandparents or issue of great-grandparents only
– ½ of estate to paternal great-grandparent(s)
– ½ of estate to maternal great-grandparent(s)
These South Carolina intestacy laws apply when a decedent does not have a will, or if part of the estate is not effectively disposed of by will, and apply only to probate assets.
If a decedent only has non-probate assets, then there is nothing to inherit from the probate estate. See our Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.
Examples of non-probate assets that are not controlled by South Carolina laws of intestate succession include bank accounts with pay-on-death designations, jointly held property, and property in a trust.
What Does “By Representation” Mean In South Carolina Inheritance Law?
In the intestate distribution scheme, South Carolina law provides that the next of kin heirs at law take by representation. For example, when a decedent is survived by descendants, but no spouse, South Carolina Code 62-2-103(1) provides that the intestate estate passes: “(1) to the issue of the decedent: if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent they take equally, but if of unequal degree then those of more remote degree take by representation.”
By representation simply means that each living beneficiary in a class of beneficiaries receive an equal share of the decedent’s estate. If a beneficiary in a class is deceased, their descendants will inherit what the deceased parent would have inherited.
South Carolina Survivorship Requirement For Intestate Inheritance
Like many other states, South Carolina requires that a next of kin heir at law survive the decedent by 120 hours (five days) in order to inherit under intestate succession. South Carolina Code 62-2-104(1)(a) states:
(1) For purposes of intestate succession, homestead allowance, and exempt property, and except as otherwise provided in subsection (2):
(a) an individual who was born before a decedent’s death but who fails to survive the decedent by one hundred twenty hours is deemed to have predeceased the decedent. If it is not established that an individual who was born before the decedent’s death survived the decedent by one hundred twenty hours, it is deemed that the individual failed to survive for the required period;
The survivorship requirement will not apply if it would result in the intestate estate passing to the state of South Carolina.
If you have questions about your status as next of kin or an heir at law in South Carolina, contact a South Carolina probate lawyer to learn about your rights.