Catherine H. Kennedy

Catherine H. Kennedy

Of Counsel
  • 803-227-4367

Cathy Kennedy is recognized throughout South Carolina for her expertise in probate and trust matters. She has experience from both sides of the bench.

From 1987 to 1999, Cathy served as the probate court judge in Columbia, S.C., one of the largest probate courts in the state. She now utilizes those skills gained as a judge in representing individuals and fiduciaries in complicated probate and trust matters. Unlike many probate practitioners, Cathy assists in both uncontested and contested estates. She is ever mindful of the expense of litigation and attempts to bring a practical approach to the resolution of disputes.

Knowing how litigation can damage relationships, Cathy served on the task force to implement mediation in the probate courts, and assisted in drafting the rule for probate court mediation. She has assisted in training mediators in alternative dispute resolution in the probate court and, as a mediator, takes great satisfaction in moving parties toward restoration of family bonds.

Cathy brings her wide and varied probate experience to bear in drafting estate plans. A former teacher, Cathy enjoys explaining complicated estate and tax concepts in understandable terms. She also advises many professionals in the intricacies of wealth protection planning. Knowing all too well what can go wrong in a poorly planned estate, Cathy counsels her clients, crafting a plan that achieves their goals during their lifetime and at death, avoids potential disputes and minimizes tax ramifications.

Cathy frequently testifies before the legislature on changes in South Carolina probate and trust law, and has been requested to serve as an expert witness in probate matters. She served on the South Carolina Trust Code committee and chaired the South Carolina Probate Code committee that recommended changes in the law, which became effective in 2014 and 2016. Cathy is a former member of the Probate and Estate Planning Specialization Advisory Board and a past chair of the Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Section of the South Carolina Bar. Having served as a past member of the South Carolina Bar's Board of Governors, she presently serves as a member of its House of Delegates and on the Executive Council for the Senior Lawyers Division. She has been elected to membership in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, a national invitation–only organization recognizing attorneys with exceptional skill and expertise in trust and estate matters.

Cathy is a lifelong resident of Columbia. An avid gardener, she is a past president of the Columbia Garden Club, has chaired the Board of the Columbia Garden Club Foundation, and is a past president of Columbia Green, a non-profit organization that seeks to beautify the greater Columbia area. She is also a past member of the Board of Central Carolina Community Foundation, having chaired the Community Impact Committee, and is currently a member of the Columbia Rotary Club.

Probate Litigation

  • Counseled the parents of a young man who had no will and was tragically killed. The son was separated from his wife, and had moved to another state. Under the law of the wife's domicile, she was the sole heir of the multi-million dollar estate. Under the law of the son's new residence, the parents and the wife shared the estate assets. Recognizing this distinction, Cathy guided the parents and their counsel in both the wife's domicile and in the new state. Ultimately the parents were successful in obtaining their share of their son's assets.
  • Guided litigation to establish the decedent’s long-time partner as the same-sex common law spouse.
  • Represented a national bank serving as fiduciary in seeking a declaration of the appropriate beneficiary of a charitable trust when the beneficiary's function changed over time.

Probate Administration

  • Assisted a personal representative in seeking a court determination of the heirs and shares of a 95-year-old woman who died without a will, leaving 35 heirs at law.
  • Advises clients on the intricacies of closing out a loved one's affairs, including estate tax and income tax consequences, paying creditors and transferring assets according to the will or South Carolina intestacy law.

Wealth Planning

  • Regularly counsels professionals in ordering their affairs by re-titling assets and creating entities to minimize exposure to creditors during life and in creating documents to accomplish their personal objectives and to minimize estate taxes at death.
  • Prepares supplemental needs trusts to enable family members to provide assets for a disabled person while protecting the disabled person's ability to receive governmental benefits.
  • Drafts and negotiates pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements to accomplish marital goals and to take into account spousal rights during life and at death.
  • University of South Carolina School of Law, J.D., 1981
  • University of South Carolina, B.A., 1972
  • South Carolina Bar, 1981
  • United States District Court, District of South Carolina, 1982
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, 1982
  • United States Supreme Court, 2002
  • Board of Governors of the South Carolina Bar, 2016-2019
  • American College of Trust & Estate Counsel
  • American Bar Association
  • South Carolina Bar House of Delegates, 2002 – Present
  • SC Bar Senior Lawyers Division, Executive Council, 2020
  • SC Bar Conventions Committee, Member, 1995-1997, 2006-Present
  • SC Bar CLE Committee, Member, 1992-1998, 2005-2015
  • SC Bar Elder Law Committee, Member, 2004-Present
  • Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law Section Council, 2006-2014; Chair, 2011-2012
  • South Carolina Supreme Court Commission on CLE and Specialization – Estate Planning and Probate Specialization Advisory Board Member, 2005-2010
  • National College of Probate Judges, 1987-Present
  • Midlands Legal Elite, Tax & Estate, 2020
  • Platinum Compleat Lawyer Award (2020)
  • Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™-AV®
  • SC Lawyers Weekly, Leadership in Law Award, 2014
  • Influential Women in Business- Executive Finalist, 2013
  • Bar Register of Preeminent Women Attorneys
  • Supreme Court of South Carolina, Certified Civil Court Mediator and Arbitrator, 2000-Present
  • South Carolina Supreme Court, Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law, 2004-Present
  • South Carolina Super Lawyers, Estate Planning and Probate, 2009-2023
  • Best Lawyers in America, Litigation: Trust and Estates, 2017-2024
  • Best Lawyers in America, Trusts and Estates, 2006-2024
  • Best Lawyers' Columbia, SC Trusts & Estates Lawyer of the Year, 2013, 2016, 2021
  • Fortune Magazine Legal Leaders', Woman Leader in the Law, 2015


  • "A Practical Guide to Elder and Special Needs Law in South Carolina-Second Edition,” a publication of the South Carolina Bar, February 2021, co-author.
  • "2013 Amendments to the S.C. Probate Code," published in SC Lawyer, a publication of the South Carolina Bar, 2014. co-author
  • A Practical Guide to Elder and Special Needs Law in South Carolina, a publication of the South Carolina Bar, 2014, contributing author

Presentations & Speaking Engagements

  • “SC Power of Attorney Act,” ACTEC Southeast Regional Meeting, 2018
  • “Non-Probate Transfers,” South Carolina Bar, annually 2013-2018
  • "Probate Administration in South Carolina," South Carolina Bar, annually 2013-2018 
  • "Mediation in the Probate Court," South Carolina Bar, annually 2013 -2018
  • “SC Alternatives Causes of Action to a Will Contest,” ”ACTEC Southeast Regional Meeting, 2017
  • “SC Power of Attorney Act,” Corporate Banking And Securities Law Section of the SC Bar, 2017
  • "Estate Law Changes - What You Need to Know Professionally and Personally," Richland County Bar Association, 2016
  • "Changes to the South Carolina Probate Code," South Carolina Probate Judges' Association, Columbia Tax Study Group; S.C. Association of CPA's; South Carolina Bar; Charleston Estate Planning Council, 2013; Burkett CPA Seminar; SC Bar Convention; Orangeburg County Bar; Columbia Bank Counsel, 2014
  • "Considerations in Delayed Probate," South Carolina Bar, 2013.
  • "Considerations Before Opening an Estate," South Carolina Bar, 2012
  • “Selected Issues Regarding Creditors’ Claims Under the South Carolina Probate Code,” South Carolina Probate Judges’ Association, 2009
  • “Asset Protection Planning for Professionals,” Columbia Medical Society, 2007


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