Moving to SC? Now What!
Author: Larry Weidner, Jim Wegmann and Frampton Harper
So, you are moving to the beautiful Lowcountry of South Carolina from another state. Your Realtor has
informed you that in South Carolina you will need a lawyer to assist you in the purchase of your new home.
A common initial reaction is, “A lawyer; why do I need a lawyer? Why can I not simply go to a local title
The short answer is the Supreme Court of South Carolina has determined that a lawyer must be present at
any real estate closing that involves a mortgage transaction.
Performing a real estate transaction in South Carolina is considered the practice of law. It is important to
understand that in a purchase or sale transaction, the issues involved go well beyond simply creating a note
and mortgage to purchase real property. Purchasing a home is traditionally one of the largest transactions
an individual will complete during his or her lifetime. That transaction starts with the negotiation and
execution of a contract for the sale or purchase of real property.
In South Carolina, the contracting process is customarily handled by real estate agents. However, it is
important to note that once the contract is signed, very little can be done to change the terms of the
contract unless both parties agree in writing. Remember, the entire transaction between the buyer and
seller is governed by the written words contained in the contract itself. Understandably, the buyer and seller
primarily focus the majority of their concerns on the “price” term of the contract. But there are a host of
other terms and conditions that make up the contract that should concern both buyer and seller. In fact, in
the long run, the additional terms may be more important than the “price” term.
This is because the additional terms often include the conditions pursuant to which one party or the other
may cancel the contract and walk away from the transaction without legal consequences or what can
happen when one party or the other breaches the contract. Consequently, you may wish to consult with an
attorney prior to the signing of the contract so the attorney can make suggestions which will protect your
interests as well as explain in detail all the terms contained in the contract.
A former Lowcountry judge once said, “I have signed orders enforcing ‘unfair’ contracts many, many times.”
Put another way, the law will not protect an individual from a “bad or unfair” contract. Parties are free to
agree to whatever terms they desire, no matter how onesided.
The importance of the lawyer, however,
does not stop at the signing of the contract.
As part of the closing process, lawyers do a complete title search on the property to ensure that good and
marketable title will actually pass from seller to buyer at the closing table. They review any applicable
covenants and restrictions, easements and/or other encumbrances that may inhibit the ability of the seller
to pass marketable title to the buyer. At the actual closing, the attorney will assist the buyer in completing
the various documents required by the lender to consummate the lender’s portion of the closing. This
assistance should include a thorough explanation of the documents to be signed. At the conclusion of the
closing, the lawyer will file the necessary documents in the county records, which normally consist of a deed
and mortgage. Additionally, the lawyer will provide the lender with a title insurance policy and, if requested,
will provide the buyer with an owner’s insurance policy of title. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all
the services a lawyer provides to buyers and sellers in a typical real estate transaction.
However, it does highlight some of the important aspects of a typical transaction and the importance of
hiring competent legal representation to protect your interests in one of the most important transactions of
So, your closing was successfully completed and now you are an official South Carolina resident and owner of
South Carolina real property. One of the most common questions asked by clients at this point is, “I have a
will executed in my former state; do I need to redo my will now that I live in South Carolina?
The general answer to that question as it relates to a will is no. The South Carolina Probate Code sec. 622505,
states a written will is valid if:
(a) it is executed in compliance with Section 622502
either at the time of execution or at the date of the
testator’s death; or
(b) if its execution complies with the law at the time of execution of either (1) the place where the will is
executed, or (2) the place where the testator is domiciled at the time of execution or at the time of death.
Therefore, there is no requirement to execute a new will in South Carolina if your will was executed in
compliance with South Carolina requirements, or it was executed in compliance with the requirements of
the state from which you moved.