Estate Planning for Multi-State Properties: A Guide | Wiles Law

Migration Trends and South Carolina’s Appeal

According to a recent study by United Van Lines, millions of Americans packed up and moved in 2020, with South Carolina seeing the second highest percentage of inbound migration in the country at 64%. The Palmetto state came in second only to Idaho, with 70% inbound migration, even with a pandemic raging.

Reasons for Choosing South Carolina: Retirement and Work

The study by United Van Lines found COVID-19 played a part in the move, but the number one reason people sought out South Carolina was retirement, accounting for 38% of inbound migration. Work followed at 26% — although roughly 43% of those who left South Carolina in 2020 did so for the same reason, the study found. Family came next at 19%, and lifestyle with 18%.

This recent data shows a longstanding nationwide pattern still persists — people are leaving the north behind and heading south and west. With South Carolina’s rich history, southern hospitality, favorable weather, and a slower way of life, the Palmetto state offers a multitude of opportunities and places for everyone. Whether you prefer the coastline, lowcountry, or majestic mountains, you can build the life you’ve always wanted here.

Reasons for Choosing South Carolina: Retirement and Work

House prices in South Carolina are also extremely reasonable, with one of the lowest median home values in the United States. Cities like Charleston have a median home value of $316,000, which is still cheaper than the cost of living in other states. If you are one of the many new snowbirds to the Palmetto state, you are not alone. South Carolina is becoming an increasingly popular place for people to live permanently or temporarily, and currently earns $23B in revenue from visitors every year, up $1.4B by recent calculations. And if you are a vacation homeowner, you might have noticed that there is a special 6% tax vs. 4% on homes for those who don’t live here full-time.

Establishing Domicile in South Carolina

Moving between residences doesn’t automatically change your domicile unless you take additional steps to make South Carolina your intended full-time home. In addition, the state of South Carolina does not clearly define domicile, however, a recent court ruling helped to establish what the state feels are the most credible elements to be domiciled: residency and a tax return.

Under most circumstances, a person must live in South Carolina for 12 consecutive months in order to establish residency and provide a tax return for one to two years to prove domicile. The South Carolina Administrative Law Court (ALC) recently defined domicile as the “the place where a person has his true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment, to which he has, whenever he is absent, an intention of returning.”  The ALC, citing a prior South Carolina Supreme Court decision, found that intent is the most important element in determining the domicile of any individual and that intent should be evaluated in light of a taxpayer’s conduct. Additionally, residents of South Carolina are required to file an income tax return, even if they do not earn income in the state. 

If your domicile is technically in another state, yet you spend most of your time in the Palmetto state, you may be wondering where the best place is to have your estate plan established. Most of the time, property outside of South Carolina will not be governed by Probate proceedings located out of the state. Your South Carolina residence and belongings would pass pursuant to South Carolina Probate proceedings, so it’s a good idea to consider having an estate plan that encompasses your home and belongings here, as-well-as, other locations.

Estate Planning Complications with Multi-State Residences

Relocating or visiting for an extended period of time to a new state often creates issues affecting estate planning, with complications stemming from where one lives at the time the estate plan is needed for administration. By addressing issues related to relocation or second homes, you can avoid certain problems of your prior state’s specific statues and laws and maximize possible benefits in South Carolina’s governing law. For example, if someone dies in a “new” state, the references in the estate planning documents to the “old” state’s laws can be problematic and cause two separate estate proceedings, in two different states.

Revocable Trust: A Solution for Multi-State Estate Planning

It’s key to update your estate plan with an amendment to the trust or will that change the old state law references to South Carolina’s state law. If you have property located in multiple states and want to avoid the time and expense of Probate, you may want to consider adding a Revocable Trust to your estate plan. Under a Revocable Trust estate plan, you could title all or some of your assets under the Trust.

Conclusion: Estate Planning for Multi-State Properties in South Carolina

When you pass away, your Trust property would be distributed pursuant to the terms of the Trust, by the Trustee, and the Trust assets would not have to go through the Probate process, nor would you have to have a multi-state estate proceeding. The reality is, if you don’t have some type of Revocable Trust, LLC or Family Limited Partnership, and you have real estate in multiple states, you’ll have to go through Probate in each state.


There is an easier way to plan with multi-state properties and assets, and that’s through a Revocable Trust. “By placing assets (such as a home, cabin or business interest) in a Revocable Trust, or by naming the trust as the beneficiary on non-probate accounts, such as life insurance or brokerage accounts, your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and will do so outside of Probate,” explains Kiplinger. Please note that under most circumstances, a person must live in South Carolina for 12 consecutive months in order to establish residency and provide a tax return. But updating estate planning documents with your new change of address can also help to verify and establish intent to become a SC resident. Other items include, a valid South Carolina driver’s license, registration to vote, ownership or lease of a residence, licensing for professional practice, employment, and even a pet! If you are looking to establish domicile in South Carolina, or if you have a complicated living situation, with different real estate locations, Wiles Law can help you consolidate all properties into one strategic plan that covers you no matter where you live. Careful planning with one of our experiences estate planning attorneys can help you reduce taxes, risks and expenses to your beneficiaries. Call us today for a free consultation and review of your current plan!