My Day, Thus Far or Why I Am Now a Babbling Idiot


25860_1920.wb1It has been brought to my attention, as executor of my father’s estate, that the great stage of SC, in 1984 changed ‘dower’ rights in real estate property. SC is not a community property state like NM. If a person’s name is not specifically on a deed, even if you are the spouse, you don’t own that property. There is a specific wording that can be put into the deed, allowing you to have the honor of inheriting the property upon the death of a spouse, but if that wording is not on the deed, you’re screwed. It doesn’t matter if the deed dates back to the dark ages. The wording on the deed “heirs, etc” is not acceptable. There is no grandfathering in of old deeds.

The exception to this is a living trust where one spouse names the other as a surviving spouse. The reason you establish a living trust is to avoid probate. According to SC law, all a person needs to do is present the registrar of deeds in that county proof of the living trust, a valid death certificate, and you should be able to change the name on the property deed without an act of Congress.

My Bad for making that assumption?

Friday morning, I call the registrar of deeds in a specific county, which is not Oconee. I tell them the above.   Oconee County has almost everything digitized. It’s great. I can go back to some of my father’s original SC purchases and track them. But not this other county.  Babbling, again.  It should be a simple, logical process.  That is why one establishes a living trust, to avoid probate, until after the surviving partner dies.   Then – you probate.  With luck, this will be many years from now.

It is a simple process, right?

  1. I call the registrar of deeds, explaining the above.  It takes the clerk in the office a bit of time to locate my father’s property listings, past and present.  BUT – they don’t bother looking for anything recent.  The registrar of deeds tells me that I need to call the probate judge.  I need a probate judge because of the lack of two words on a deed.
  2. I call the probate judge.  His clerk is incredulous, telling me that is why you have a living trust, to avoid probate.  Even if I am in New Mexico and the property is in South Carolina, and the living trust gives the estate to the surviving spouse, I don’t go through probate – in New Mexico or South Carolina.  You do a name change on the deed, maybe present a copy of the trust for them to see, and a viable copy of the death certificate.  Everyone knows that, I was told.  The clerk transferred me back to the registrar of deeds.
  3. The clerk I talked to told me I would need to bring the do probate, bring my attorney, and a copy of the living trust, which eliminates the need for both probate and attorney, to their office, along with a copy of the death certificate to make the name change.  I told her that I was in NM, and none of that was required.  She told me to get a lawyer, and ended the call.

During the process I basically did a complete title search of the property, back to when it was purchased in 1964 when it was accompanied by a title search.  I found all the records, deed transfers, everything I need, and the registrar of deeds should have been smart enough to provide.  And, now you know why I’m babbling.  Oh, there were a few other reasons, but they aren’t for publication.  All deal with dealing with the parents’ estate. I swear I have friends today, who are ready to shoot me.