Estate Planning

The Murphy Law Group, P.A. serves clients across South Carolina with complex estate planning and administration needs.  We are dedicated to collaborating with our clients in creating both pre-death and post-death planning and devising a practical estate plan.  We assist clients in all matters related to preparing clients and their loved ones for the ends of their lives, including the following:

  • Wills
  • Trusts (Revocable, Irrevocable, Special Needs)
  • Estate planning strategies
  • Probate, estate and trust administration
  • Estate and gift taxation
  • Transfers of personal or business assets (real estate, stocks, other business interest)
  • Business succession planning
  • Powers of attorney and advanced healthcare directives
  • Prenuptial and marital agreements
  • Private foundations and charitable giving techniques
  • Generation-skipping tax planning

We strive to help each client create the most effective and efficient estate plan possible with an emphasis on avoiding costly probate litigation and reducing estate taxes to the lowest amount possible.

We also offer assistance to those currently serving in a fiduciary capacity such as Personal Representative, Trustee, Guardian, Conservator, or Agent under a Power of Attorney who require assistance with tax issues, administrative issues, or avoiding potential litigation.  We provide legal representation in South Carolina for the appointment of personal representatives, appointment of conservators for incapacitated adults and minors, appointment of guardians for incapacitated adults, assistance with probate administration, probate litigation, and probate mediation.

In addition, we can assist you with disputes arising upon death before the South Carolina Probate Courts in the following areas:

  • Heirs’ claims
  • Will contests
  • Elective share and omitted spouse rights
  • Enforcing prenuptial agreements
  • Challenges to conduct of fiduciaries

Our expertise and experience in all matters related to estate planning, estate administration and probate matters will help you navigate this complex process while keeping your needs and concerns at the forefront of the process.

Download Estate Planning Questionnaire for Kerry L. Murphy
Download Estate Planning Questionnaire for Carole H. Gunter

Probate

 

This memo will outline for you some of your significant duties and responsibilities as Personal Representative. The term “Personal Representative” is the generic term for “executors” or “administrators” and throughout this letter we will be using the abbreviated term “Representative.”

Generally, the Representative’s duties consist of collecting the assets of the estate, ascertaining and paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to those persons entitled to receive them. However, these very general duties are made up of a number of specific responsibilities.

 

1. INFORMATION TO HEIRS AND DEVISEES.

Within 30 days of appointment, notice of the appointment as personal representative and probate of will must be sent to all heirs and devisees. The notice is given on Form 305PC and a proof of delivery (Form 120PC) must be mailed to the probate court. Our office normally mails these forms for the personal representative.

2. INVENTORY AND APPRAISEMENT.

Within 90 days of appointment as Representative by the Probate Court, the Representative must file an Inventory and Appraisal (350PC) describing and placing a value on all of the assets of the estate and the amount of all indebtedness secured by liens on such estate assets.

It is the Representative’s responsibility to search out and locate estate assets. Some useful techniques include reviewing tax returns for several years prior to the decedent’s death, reviewing bank statements, reviewing fire and casualty insurance policies, checking with banks, stock brokers, employers, with trade associations, professional associations and other organizations for death benefits, for veterans benefits if the decedent was a veteran, and other similar inquiries. All such assets should be included in the Inventory and Appraisement. We will be glad to assist you in the search if you wish. We are familiar with a number of techniques to search for assets belonging to a Decedent.

 

3. JOINTLY HELD PROPERTY.

Jointly held property, where there is a right of survivorship, and joint bank accounts are usually not a part of the probate estate and except for certain duties to report them to the tax authorities (and perhaps pay an estate tax on such assets) the personal representative is not responsible for such assets, since the ownership of such assets passes at death to the surviving joint owner. However, jointly held property, as well as life insurance, must be listed on the Inventory and Appraisement Form for the Estate.

 

4. CREDITORS.

Shortly after the will is probated (if there is a will) and the Representative appointed, the Representative must advertise for creditors. In Richland County, the Probate Court handles the advertising. The notice will appear once a week for three consecutive weeks. Creditors are directed to file their claims within an eight month period, beginning with the first publication of the creditors notice in the newspaper. All claims arising before the Decedent’s death must be presented within the earlier of the following dates, or they are forever barred:

One year of the Decedent’s death, or
The later of Eight months from the first published notice to creditors to present their claims

In addition to publication in the paper, we recommend that you contact known creditors. There is a probate form which is appropriate for this notification. Our office can advise you in regard to the appropriate procedure for notification of creditors. It is important that the Representative make a diligent search for claims and notify creditors personally of the claim filing deadline. Any claims or bills which you receive should be promptly sent to us for review.

We will advise you and recommend appropriate dispositions of such items. Not all claims are valid and those that are not valid should be denied by the Representative.

If the decedent owed any money or property to family members or to beneficiaries, a claim from such person should be prepared and filed within the period described above. Otherwise, if the claim is paid even though not timely filed, adverse tax consequences may be incurred by the estate. We would urge that you consult with us before any payment is made from estate funds.

 

5. REAL ESTATE.

If the real estate is to be distributed to the heirs, the Representative also has a duty to file Deeds of Distribution for any real property which the decedent may have owned in South Carolina. We can assist in this function by preparing and filing for you the necessary “Deeds of Distribution.” The Deed of Distribution, when recorded, evidences on the public record who received the real property from the estate and releases the Representative’s rights to and powers over such property following the conclusion of estate administration.

 

6. TAX RESPONSIBILITIES.

The Representative is also responsible for filing a number of federal and South Carolina tax returns of various kinds:

Decedent’s Final Income Tax Return. The Representative is also responsible for the final state and federal income tax returns of the decedent, not only for the year in which the decedent died, but also for all previous years, if any, for which returns were or will be due but have not been filed. Thus the Representative must determine if sufficient income was received by the decedent during the year of death and for previous years in order to determine whether income tax returns are due. The threshold amount of income which must be received for state and federal purposes in order to require the filing of income tax returns changes from time to time. If you can advise us of the amount of income received during any year for which no state or federal income tax return was filed, we will be glad to advise you whether it is necessary to file such returns.

Fiduciary Income Tax Return. If the estate receives more than $600 of income during any year, federal and South Carolina a “fiduciary” income tax return must be filed for the estate. We will be glad to consult with you from time to time concerning estate income and, if returns are required to prepare them for you.

 

7. CLOSING COURT DOCUMENTS.

Once the Inventory and Appraisement Form has been filed, the documents to close the estate can be filed with the court. They include the Petition for Settlement, Waiver of Hearing to Close Estate, and a Receipt.

Tax Planning

The Murphy Law Group, P.A. commonly assists clients in developing effective solutions to their tax and business matters.  We are experienced in structuring business entities that are most beneficial and tax effective for our clients.  Our attorneys typically handle LLC and partnership formations, general corporate counseling, employment agreements, mergers, asset and stock acquisitions and sales and shareholder representation.

Whether tax savings are a key objective or an afterthought, our attorneys can find creative tax solutions that maximize value for our clients. When a dispute or controversy arises with federal, state, or local tax authorities, we knowledgably inform clients of their rights, advise them of their options, and resolve the dispute on their behalf.    

We are well versed in federal and state income tax laws and incentives, and we handle all aspects of tax-related matters.  We represent clients in the following areas:

  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Corporate Structure and Governance
  • Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • Asset Purchases and Sales
  • Employment Agreements
  • Tax-deferred Exchanges
  • Non-competition Agreements
  • Property and Sales Taxes
  • Tax-exempt Organizations
  • Commercial Transactions

Business Planning

We provide comprehensive services to clients with a range of different needs and assist them in making important decisions to lay a strong foundation for their new business entity, or help restructure an existing business, keeping in mind the client’s goals with regard to income tax savings and governance issues.

We typically represent clients in the following areas:

  • Selection of appropriate type of entity to maximize tax savings and liability protection
  • Organization of limited liability companies
  • Formation of partnerships
  • Formation of limited partnerships, including family limited partnerships
  • Formation of corporations
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Business reorganization
  • Asset transfers
  • Buy-sell agreements
  • Contractual negotiations
  • Financing transactions
  • General corporate matters
  • Drafting of contracts
  • Contract negotiation
  • Lease agreements
  • Consulting agreements

We are capable of handling a client’s needs regardless of the size and complexity of the matter.

Real Estate

The Murphy Law Group, P.A. represents clients in a wide array of both commercial and residential real estate transactions.  We represent buyers, sellers, developers, investors, lenders, landlords and tenants and have in-depth knowledge of the following matters:

  • Real estate acquisitions and sales
  • Refinancing
  • Home equity lines of credit
  • Commercial and residential development
  • Preparation of covenants and restrictions
  • Lease preparation and negotiation
  • Financing
  • Like-kind exchanges
  • Real property taxation issues

We are all well versed and routinely engage in tax-deferred exchanges of real estate pursuant to Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.

We typically assist clients with planning to maximize capital gains versus ordinary income upon the sale of real property and conservation easements.

Our attorneys are skilled in addressing real estate matters throughout South Carolina.