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Attempt to Revoke Disclaimer in Estate Ineffective
Description South Carolina high court held that written documents prevail over oral testimony, so a general disclaimer of interest in an estate means the disclaimed interest passes by operation of state law to the heirs next in line, not to the party the disclaimers said they intended to receive their portion of the estate.
Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words s; Revocation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Holden died intestate, survived by his wife, two sons, and two grandchildren. His sons filed disclaimers of their interests in their father's estate. They said that the purpose was to allow their mother to inherit the entire estate. The probate court told them that, as a result of their disclaimers, the grandchildren would inherit their portion of the estate. To avoid that result, the sons then executed a document called a revocation of their disclaimer. The probate court held that the disclaimers were ineffective; the grandchildren were awarded one-half of the estate. The appeals court also held that the revocation of the disclaimers were invalid. The matter was appealed to the South Carolina high court.
Decision Affirmed. The written disclaimers were clear. They renounced the sons' interest in their father's estate. They did not direct the transfer of their interest to their mother. Hence, based on the disclaimers, the sons' interests pass by operation of state law to the grandchildren as lineal descendants of the father. The later-written revocation of their disclaimers was ineffective as their interests had passed to the grandchildren by operation of law. There was no evidence, other than later oral testimony, of the sons' desire to disclaim their interest in favor of their mother. Such evidence cannot prevail over written documents. The error was one of law and is not subject to equitable relief.
Citation Holden v. Holden, - S.E.2d -, 2000 WL 1745190 (Sup. Ct., S.C., 2000)

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