Day 2: Understanding the Role of the Decedent in the Petition Process in South Carolina


In the world of probate law, the term ‘decedent’ refers to the individual who has passed away. In the context of a petition for determination of heirs, the decedent plays a central role, even posthumously. This article aims to provide an advanced understanding of the decedent’s role in the petition process in South Carolina.

The Probate Process

When a person passes away, their estate, which includes all their assets and liabilities, is subject to the probate process. This process is initiated by the filing of a petition for appointment of personal representative, a formal document that provides the court with necessary information about the decedent, their estate, and potential heirs.

Decedent’s Role

The decedent’s role in the petition process is primarily defined by their actions before death. For instance, if the decedent had a valid will, it would guide the distribution of their assets. However, if the decedent died intestate, meaning without a valid will, the court would follow South Carolina’s intestacy laws to determine the rightful heirs.

The county where the decedent resided at the time of death typically has jurisdiction over the probate process. The personal representative of the estate, often appointed in the decedent’s will or by the court, is responsible for filing the petition in the appropriate county court.

Petition for Determination of Heirs

A Petition for Determination of heirs is for the circumstance in which an estate has not been probated within ten years of the time of death of decedent. In that event, the estate is time-barred from the regular probate process, including an appointment of a personal representative. This means assets of the estate cannot be distributed, though, at ten years, it is unlikely any assets would be left beyond potential interest in real property. An interest in real property and potentially a non-probate beneficiary transfer (not subject to the ten-year rule) would be the reason for Determination of Heirs, as that gives a court order designating the transfer of interest in real estate or a transfer outside probate.

The petition process involves several steps that must be completed in a specific order. These steps include filing the petition, notifying interested parties, scheduling a hearing, and finally, the court’s determination of heirs. Each step has its own set of requirements and formalities that must be adhered to.

The decedent’s role extends beyond the initiation of the petition process. Their actions, or lack thereof, can significantly impact the process. For instance, if the decedent failed to maintain proper records of associated relative birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates, it could complicate the process as those records are necessary for this process.


The decedent plays a crucial role in the petition process for determination of heirs in South Carolina. In our next article, we will delve deeper into the importance of a hearing in the petition process. Stay tuned!