Everyone knows something about the law, whether it is from past experiences, self-education, or simply word of mouth. The correctness of that knowledge largely depends on the source from which the individual learned the information.

The list below provides a brief explanation about five key legal facts most people either do not know, or know very little about. These five facts are important information to add to anyone’s legal toolbox.

  1. Ancillary probate. Did you know that when a person dies with only a will, his estate must be probated? A person’s estate is always probated in the state where he was a resident.

When a person dies owning real property in multiple states, his estate is subject to ancillary probate in each state the real property is located.

For example, John Smith is a South Carolina resident and owns a home in Bluffton. He also owns a house in Florida and a condo in New York.

John dies with only a will. His named personal representative will have to probate his estate in South Carolina and complete an ancillary probate in Florida and New York.

  1. Personal representative. Did you know that a personal representative of an estate in South Carolina is not a task to be taken lightly?

A personal representative is responsible for managing the administration of the estate. A personal representative is required to find the estate documents, apply for probate, notify interested parties, and manage the property of the deceased.

Though it is not a requirement, it is always beneficial to hire an attorney to assist with probate.

  1. Jury duty. Did you know there is an age exemption for jury duty? In South Carolina, if you are age 65 or older, you qualify for an exemption from serving on a jury.

This exemption is not a mandatory one. If you meet the age requirement but wish to serve on the jury, you do not have to exercise the exemption.

  1. Medicaid. Did you know you should always consult an attorney for Medicaid planning advice?

If you use a non-lawyer to do Medicaid planning, the person offering services might not have any legal knowledge or training.

Bad advice can lead seniors to purchase products or take actions that will not help them qualify for Medicaid and might actually make it more difficult.

  1. Estate planning. Did you know that do-it-yourself estate planning can lead to disaster?

Cheap, quick and easy does not always equate to “legal and binding.” South Carolina has specific laws governing the formation, legal content, and the execution of estate-planning documents.

For example, witnesses to documents should be “uninterested,” meaning not named beneficiaries.

Furthermore, do-it-yourself legal documents created on certain websites are not always recognized as valid. Nor will the website you drafted your documents from give you any legal advice or legal aid.

Do-it-yourself legal documents might seem like a viable option, but you might spend more money trying to correct and manage the damage they could cause.

It is important to always talk to a qualified estate-planning attorney about any estate-planning documents.

Rebekah Freeman is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton.