Offering legal services in estate planning, probate, elder law, & special needs law.

Creating real solutions for real families.

WELCOME TO MILLERLAW

A Personalized Law Firm For Estate, Family and Business Matters

Christopher L. Miller, Esq. provides personal and individual legal services to attend to your needs. When you hire Christopher L. Miller as your attorney, you are hiring me to be by your side every step of the way.

Whether you require estate planning, probate, family court, or business legal representation, I promise to work diligently and use the latest technology to help you achieve your goals. Put my know-how to work for you today!

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AREAS OF PRACTICE
  • ESTATE PLANNING AND PROBATE

    You've worked hard to build your assets. Planning your estate now will allow you to protect those hard earned assets later during the estate transfer process. Christopher Miller can draft the simplest estate plan, set up more complex arrangements utilizing sophisticated trusts, and everything in between, depending on your needs. We also handle probate matters in many Probate Courts throughout the state of South Carolina. Contact me today for a consultation.

    • Last Wills and Trusts
    • Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney
    • Tax Planning
    • Charitable Giving
    • Estate and Trust Administration
    • Contested Trusts and Estates
    • Fiduciary Accountings
    • Guardianships and Conservatorships
  • FAMILY LAW

    When things do not go well in personal relationships, life can become very difficult. I offer personalized attention to your matter. When you hire me for your family court issue, you can be sure that I will show up to argue your case, not an assistant. I take care to set forth your cause as efficiently as possible, and will provide candid advice as to the strengths and weaknesses of your case so you can smartly move your case forward. Contact me today for a consultation.

    • Divorce and Separation
    • Child Custody and Visitation
    • Child Support
    • Asset Division
    • Prenuptial Agreements
    • Name Changes
  • BUSINESS LAW

    Christopher Miller is here to serve you - the entrepreneur, leader, visionary and dreamer. I myself own several start up businesses in various stages. I understand what it is like and I want to help your business achieve its goals. We can help you select the proper organization for your business, help you protect yourself with carefully drafted contracts and shareholder agreements, and can help you protect your intellectual property. Contact me today for a consultation.

    • Corporation and LLC Formation
    • Shareholder/Operating Agreements
    • Contract Drafting/Review
    • Trademark and Copyright
    • Real Estate Leasing/Sales
    • Opinion Letters



ATTORNEY
Picture of attorney Christopher L. Miller
Christopher L. Miller
Attorney and Counselor at Law

Hello. I am Christopher L. Miller. Thank you for visiting my website. One of my favorite things about my law practice is being able to meet new clients and work on legal strategies to help you to accomplish your goals. Please contact me today for a consultation.

Some other things about me: I live in Simpsonville with my wife Jaime, son Christopher, and daughter Sophie. When not practising law, I enjoy spending time with my family taking in the wonderful sights of the upstate, cheering on Clemson football, the Greenville Drive and the Swamp Rabbits.

In 2013, our son was diagnosed with autism, which while being an initial surprise to our family, has also given me additional insight and perspective on my work assisting families in planning for the current and sometimes uncertain future needs of family members with incapacity and disability.

  • GENERAL BACKGROUND

    Legal Experience
    I began my legal career in New York by attending a small local law school, Touro Law Center, on scholarship. During law school I made Dean's List each semester, served as a teaching assistant in Criminal Law, served as a research assistant for one of my law professors, and graduated with honors, magna cum laude, finishing 9th in my class.

    Legal Experience
    After graduation I spent several years practicing estate planning, estate probate, real estate, and family law for a law firm on the north shore of Nassau County, Long Island. In 2009 I relocated to Greenville, South Carolina with my family and started a law practice here in Greenville, as a solo attorney and as part of a small firm, concentrating my practice in estate planning, probate, elder, and disability law.

    Education
    Juris Doctorate (Touro Law Center)
    Master of Science in Experimental Pathology (New York Medical College)
    Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry (Stony Brook University)

  • Bar Admissions & Memberships

    Bar Admissions
    South Carolina
    New York
    United States Tax Court

  • Professional Memberships

    Bar Associations
    South Carolina Bar Association
    Greenville County Bar Association

    Bar Committees
    South Carolina Bar Elder Law Committee
    South Carolina Bar Ethics Advisory Committee

  • AWARDS, ACCOLADES AND RECOGNITION

    CALI Awards For Academic Excellence
    Contracts I
    Business Organizations I
    Evidence
    Pretrial Litigation

    Honorary Societies
    The Phi Beta Kappa Society
    Golden Key International Honour Society

Here's My Latest Blog Post!

What Is Trust Administration?


When a loved one has a trust and has passed away, administration of the trust will be necessary. The trust may either need to be distributed or continued for the benefit of its beneficiaries, depending on the trust terms. The person or people designated to serve as the Successor Trustee need to understand what should happen at the time of death of the person who creating the trust. While administering a trust is generally simpler than probating an estate, a trust is not self executing.

There are administrative tasks and expenses that revolve around trust administration that families and Trustees need to understand. The first thing that should happen during trust administration, is that an “administrative” trust should be set up with its own tax identification number. The trust, depending on how the estate planning has been set up, may pay for funeral expenses and possibly last illness expenses of the deceased, as well as ongoing bills and attorney or accountant fees. With the new tax identification number the successor Trustee can set up a new bank account in the name of the “administrative” trust to track all income and expenses. Meticulous record keeping is essential when administering a trust.

There are many other things that can happen in a trust administration.

Some of these things could include:

1. Notifying trust beneficiaries of the death of the Grantor and of the trust's existence;

2. Upon distribution from the administrative trust, obtaining a tax identification number for any continuing sub-trusts;

3. Filing a final income tax return for the decedent;

4. Filing a trust income tax return each year for as long as the trust continues;

5. Determining if an estate tax is due;

6. Publishing a legal notice of the death of the Grantor of the trust;

7. Marshalling all of the trust assets, investing them safely, protecting them, and distributing them as appropriate;

8. Filing the decedent’s Will with the Probate Court;

9. Opening a bank account for the trust;

10. Paying last expenses of the decedent and valid debts;

11. Collecting life insurance proceeds;

12. Determining if a probate is necessary for any assets;

13. Notifying persons or institutions that they are the nominated Successor Trustee;

14. Notifying government agencies of the death;

15. Determining the status of all the decedent’s retirement accounts. Determine if the trust or sub-trust is a beneficiary. Take steps to take any required minimum distribution and maintain eligibility for stretch payouts;

16. Obtaining valuations on all property as of the date of death of the decedent;

17. Paying off valid debts of the Grantor;

18. Paying ongoing expenses of trust administration such as legal and CPA expenses, etc.;

19. Liquidating assets where necessary to pay off the debts of the Grantor;

20. Distributing the trust assets to the beneficiaries after all of the above has been completed.

The above list is not exhaustive. There can be many other tasks to accomplish depending on the particular situation. The above is just a list of common tasks that a Trustee might have to do. Every trust is unique. The terms, the beneficiaries, and the assets of the Grantor of that trust are going to be a unique mix that bring their own challenges. Therefore, it is important to hire experienced trust counsel to help with the administration of the trust. Missteps can be costly and result in personal liability to the Successor Trustee. If you experience a death in the family and need help, please don’t hesitate to call Upstate Estate Law, P.C. The Firm's phone number is (864) 527-3144.


Posted on November 12, 2018 at 4:01 am by Christopher Miller


View More Informative Blog Posts


FAQs
Estate Planning FAQs
  • Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?

    The reasons for needing a Last Will and Testament are as varied as the clients that walk through my door. Having a Last Will and Testament in place can lead to a much more orderly and calm estate administration process for your surviving relatives by appointing somebody that is clearly in charge of the process.

    Some clients want to protect their young children with trusts and guardianship designations in the event the unthinkable occurs. Sometimes parents are worried about providing for a disabled child. Other clients are concerned about their heir's debts and want to protect the estate assets to the fullest extent possible. There are concerns about estate taxes, as well as wishes to benefit favorite charities. The reasons for needing a Last Will significantly depend on your concerns and current interests.

  • Do I need anything else besides a Last Will and Testament?

    After a Last Will and Testament, you should strongly consider setting up a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Financial Durable Power of Attorney. A Last Will and Testament will take care of your assets after your lifetime. But these Powers of Attorney will help you to take care of your medical care and assets during your lifetime should you be unable to.

    The Health Care Power of Attorney appoints a family member to make medical decisions for you in the specific case where you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. The Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives an agent that you appoint the ability to take care of financial matters for you in case you are either mentally or physically unable to do so yourself.

  • Will my estate owe any taxes after my lifetime?

    An estate can be subject to multiple taxes. An estate may have to pay estate taxes as well as estate income taxes. If you are administering an estate, tax issues can be difficult to navigate.

    In short, in the year 2013 estates of less than $5,250,000.00 do not have to pay estate tax in South Carolina. If an estate owns assets located in other states, estate taxes could be due in the other states. Whether or not an estate income tax return must be filed depends whether or not the estate has earned $600.00 or more in a given tax year. Retirement accounts are subject to different rules, and traditional IRAs and 401ks will typically incur income taxes on the deferred income. The tax law is complex, do not try to navigate this yourself as mistakes can be costly and irreversible.

  • How much do you charge for estate planning?

    The answer to this question is that it depends on what you need. A simple estate plan with a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Durable Financial Power of Attorney typically costs a few hundred dollars. Adding Living Trusts or other trusts to the equation can add to this cost, sometimes significantly.

    Proper estate planning is a process, not a thing. There are many ancillary tasks that should be completed to ensure that your estate plan will work as desired. These include making sure your financial institutions will accept your Powers of Attorney, making sure your beneficiary designations are in place and are consistent with your intentions, transferring assets to trusts (an often overlooked step), and performing the ongoing formalities required by your estate plan.

Estate Probate FAQs
  • Why do I have to administer my relative's estate?

    The major reason is to be able to take control of the assets of the estate. Assets in the name of the Decedent typically cannot be accessed without some sort of an estate administration being undertaken in the Probate Court. Furthermore, good title to real estate owned by the Decedent can depend on an estate administration and the resulting deed of distribution that is issued by the Personal Representative of the estate.

    If you are unsure whether or not you actually need to probate a relative's estate, schedule a consultation with me and we will figure it out. In some cases probate is unnecessary, in others it is required, and in some cases where the estate is sufficiently small a small estate proceeding can be undertaken.

  • What is a small estate proceeding?

    A small estate proceeding allows anybody who paid the funeral bill or the heirs of the decedent to apply to the Probate Court for an Order allowing the person to collect certain assets belonging to the Decedent. After reimbursing the person who paid the funeral bill, the remaining assets are divided according to the Last Will of the decedent or the law of intestacy, whichever is applicable in the case.

    There are certain restrictions to this procedure. Thirty days must pass from the date of death before a small estate can be filed, and the value of the entire probate estate, minus liens and encumbrances, shall not exceed $25,000.00. The process is limited to personal property (bank accounts, investment accounts), real property cannot be transferred this way. If the decedent held any real property in his/her name without survivorship language in the deed, opening a full estate will be necessary to properly transfer the land.

  • What paperwork do I need to probate an estate?

    Here's the legal profession's most common answer: it depends. You will need to file an original death certificate, along with the Application for Appointment/Probate. Other forms may or may not be necessary depending on the circumstances. If the Decedent had a Last Will, the law requires the Last Will be filed with the applicable Probate Court within thirty days of the Decedent's death.

    Other forms that may be required to open the estate proceeding are Renunciations and Waivers from the estate's heirs, and an Appointment of Agent for Service in the case of an out of state Personal Representative. In the case of formal proceedings, you are required to file a Summons as well as Proof of Service on all the interested parties entitled to notice, who have not otherwise waived notice. In certain instances, a fiduciary bond may be required. It can be quite a bit confusing to figure out what paper work you need to begin the estate administration process.

    Luckily I love to practice in Probate Court so much that I developed software that helps South Carolina attorneys prepare paperwork for use in Probate Court. Contact me today for a consultation.

  • The Personal Representative of an estate is not giving me any information. What can I do?

    Sometimes the communication process between the Personal Representative, the attorney for the estate, and the estate beneficiaries breaks down. Many times this arises from a misunderstanding as to how information will flow from the attorney to the estate beneficiaries. Some Personal Representatives want the information to flow through them, whereas others want the attorney to take care of the communications. I always discuss with the Personal Representative in the beginning how communication with estate beneficiaries will take place.

    If you are an estate beneficiary and are not receiving any information, the easiest thing to do is go to the Probate Court and review the file. Anything done in the estate will be in the file. If this is not feasible, there are forms available that allow you to demand to receive all documents and notices that are required to be given by the Personal Representative. If you are unable to receive information you are entitled to, contact me for a consultation about what to do next.

Family Law FAQs
  • My husband/wife is not allowing me to see my children, what can I do to see them?

    This is an unfortunate and yet all too common situation where parents of a child cannot agree on custody and visitation rights. If there is currently no Family Court Order in place setting forth your visitation rights, your remedy is to petition the Family Court for an Order giving you the right to visit with your children. When you file your Petition, you can also file a Motion for Temporary Relief, where you can have the court set forth a visitation schedule temporarily pending the outcome of the case.

    If there is already an Order in place for visitation, then your spouse is in violation of the Order. The Order can be enforced via a Contempt action, which carries somewhat severe penalties including possible jail time and monetary fines. Do not tolerate not being permitted to visit with your children. If you are having an issue, consult with an attorney to explore your options.

  • I've been served with divorce papers. Now what?

    So you've been served with papers by your spouse seeking a divorce? First, make note of the day, date, time, and what you were doing when you were served. This sounds trifling, but could have an effect on the outcome of your case. Furthermore, the time for you to take some responsive action begins to run on the day you were served. Next, review the papers and determine what chance there is that you and your spouse will be able to resolve this with a voluntary agreement.

    Next, you should consult with an attorney to determine how to respond, which will likely include filing an Answer to the Summons and Complaint, and possibly making an appearance at a temporary hearing, if temporary relief is requested by your spouse. At this consultation, the lawyer will explain the divorce process, provide an overview of the services offered by the attorney, and how much the services will cost.

  • What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?

    If you are trying to obtain a no-fault divorce, the ground for divorce will be one year of continuous separation by the parties. The separation requires that the parties actually physically reside in separate residences throughout this year long period. At the final divorce hearing, a witness will be required to testify to their personal knowledge that the parties have resided separately for one year.

    The other grounds for divorce are the so-called fault grounds, and they are adultery, physical abuse, and habitual drunkeness and drug use. These grounds must be proven by the party asserting them. Proving any of these fault grounds can have a devastating impact on the case for the at-fault party, whereby alimony could be denied to an adulterer and child custody/visitation can be taken away from a physical abuser or habitual drug user. Asset division can also be impacted if these fault grounds are proven.

  • How do I change my custody/visitation and support orders?

    If there is already a Family Court Order for custody/visitation or child support in place, it is important that you abide by all the terms of the Order. While you might agree among yourself and your child's parent to change the Order, you should know that such an agreement will not bind the Family Court. Thus, if you wish to officially change a Family Court Order, you must petition the Family Court and request the change.

    When you file your petition for modification, the Family Court will review your request and hold a hearing. If the Court finds that there is a substantial change in circumstances that causes the prior Order to be unjust or impractical, a change can be made. When you make your request, you may also seek temporary relief, where you request that the court issue a temporary Order pending the outcome of the case. This can be useful for obtaining relief quickly.

Business Law FAQs
  • I am an entrepreneur looking to start up my own company. What business entity should I be looking into?

    Congratulations on starting a new business. Choosing the correct business entity requires some thought, and this decision should be revisited as your business grows and develops. One major consideration in choosing the form of business is limitation of personal liability. South Carolina law grants limitation of personal liability to corporations, LLCs, and partners in certain forms of partnership, such as LLPs. This limitation of personal liability does not exist with a sole proprietorship, or an ordinary partnership.

    Another major consideration is the tax structure of the entity. C corporations are subject to double taxation, where they are taxed at the corporate level and at the shareholder level. This is generally disadvantageous to small businesses. A different option is the S corporation, which is also a corporation but is considered a pass through entity (only taxed at the shareholder level). There are strict legal requirements for creating and maintaining an S corporation. Other examples of pass through entities include partnerships, LLC, and LLPs. For most small businesses, a pass through entity will suffice. However, if your business experiences spectacular growth and needs to begin raising large amounts of capital to keep growing, you will find that a C corporation is the best entity for your business.

  • What are the differences between C and S corporations?

    C corporations and S corporations are both corporations in the eyes of the state. However, an S corporation is a corporation that files an election with the Internal Revenue Service to be treated as an S corporation under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code (as opposed to Subchapter C like a C corporation).

    Status as an S corporation requires compliance with a number of often constricting rules, including the limitation on the number of shareholders it can have but, with some exceptions, complying corporations escape federal tax at the corporate level. (South Carolina also recognizes the S election.). The limitation on the number of shareholders (currently 100), is the reason why corporations become C corporations as they grow larger, the S election becomes unavailable to them.

  • What types of legal procedures should corporations maintain?

    Shareholders of corporations are entitled to the shield of personal liability that limits the shareholder's liability to his/her own investment. However, this liability shield will only remain intact if certain requirements are complied with. The shareholder must respect the fact that the corporation is a separate entity in order to maintain that liability shield.

    This requires that regular shareholder and board meetings be held for the corporation. This also requires that minutes be kept for these meetings. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the separate financial status of the corporation must be respected. Do not intermingle shareholder and corporation funds, as this can result in the personal liability shield of the entity being removed.

  • What is "piercing the corporate veil?"

    "Piercing the corporate veil" is the result of a shareholder acting in a way that does not respect the separate status of the business entity. The corporate formalities of shareholder and board meetings are not held, and the finances of the corporation and the shareholder are commingled. This can result in an outside person being permitted to "pierce the corporate veil" and hold a shareholder liable for greater than the amount of the shareholder's investment. When the corporate veil is pierced, the law views the corporation as essentially being the alter ego of the shareholder, and would not enforce the personal liability shield.

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ADDRESS, PHONE & EMAIL

Christopher L. Miller, Esq.

1200 Woodruff Road, Suite A3

Greenville, SC 29607

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Tel: (864) 527-3144

Fax: (864) 751-4117

OFFICE HOURS (by appointment only)

Monday: 9am to 5:00pm

Tuesday: 9am to 5:00pm

Wednesday: 9am to 5:00pm

Thursday: 9am to 5:00pm

Friday: 9am to 5:00pm

Saturday: Appointments Available

Sunday: Closed