Alexandria Probate Lawyer

As defined by Alexandria law or Virginia law, probate is essentially a process to prove the validity of a person’s last will and testament. However, this process can be complex, especially for someone who does not regularly deal with the law.

An Alexandria probate lawyer can help. If you are in the process of probating a will, an experienced trusts and estate attorney can help guide you through the process to make it as smooth as possible.

How Does the Probate Process Work?

If there is a will, it will nominate an executor who will be the one to initiate the process. In this scenario, the probate process begins with probating the will. This simply means that the will is presented to the clerk of the circuit court in order to determine whether it is valid. However, if there is no will, the first step will be having an administrator appointed.

Once a person qualifies as executor or administrator, the court will enter an order to that effect. Within 30 days after the qualification, the executor or administrator must send a notice of probate to all of the decedent’s heirs and all of the legatees who are named in the will, if any. The executor or administrator of the estate then has four months from the date of qualification to certify to the court that the notice of probate was sent to all required parties, or certify that notice was not required under the circumstances. The executor or the administrator also has four months to file an inventory of all estate assets, which reports the market value of the assets as of the date of the decedent’s death.

The probate process ends when the expenses and the fees of administration have been paid, the final accounting has been filed and approved by the commissioner of the court, all enforceable debts have been paid, and all probate assets that are left over, if any, have been distributed to the proper beneficiaries or heirs. An Alexandria probate lawyer can further explain the process.

Length of the Process

At a minimum, the probate process in Alexandria takes approximately 16 months. This is because the executor or the administrator has 16 months in total from the date of qualification to file an accounting with the court. However, the time for an estate to be administered will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

Also, the executor or the administrator has the responsibility of ensuring that all applicable tax returns are filed, which may potentially delay distribution to heirs and the eventual closure of the estate. If the estate has not closed within 16 months of qualification, another accounting must be filed within another 16 months.

Does a Person Have to Go to Court?

Generally, a person will have to go to court for probate proceedings just once. An executor or administrator will only have to go to court at the outset to get qualified by the clerk. However, the order issued by the court qualifying a person can be appealed up to six months after the order is entered. Therefore, if an interested party appeals the order, the clerk will hold a hearing and, depending on the circumstances of the appeal, may have a trial.

What Happens in Alexandria When There Is Not a Will

If the deceased dies without a will or intestate, the estate will be distributed in the same manner, however, an administrator will need to be appointed. This is referred to as intestate which simply means that the person died without a will and someone will have to qualify as the administrator of the estate.

Certain persons have priority to serve as administrator over others. Within 30 days after a person’s death, any person who is entitled to a decedent’s estate may qualify. However, if there are multiple people entitled to the decedent’s estate, the person trying to qualify must obtain written waivers from the other heirs. If 31 to 45 days have elapsed since the decedent’s date of death, the first distributee who applies to become administrator will then have priority to serve. Different rules will apply as more days elapse after the date of a person’s death.

Ex Parte vs Interparty Probate

In Virginia, there is what is called ex parte probate and interparty probate. Ex parte probate is most common and entails one person going to the clerk of the circuit court to present a will and prove its validity. The presentation of the will may be to either the clerk or the court, who will review the will to ensure it contains a self-proving affidavit. If there is no self-proving affidavit, testimony from the witnesses may be required.

This is different from interparty probate which is when there is a motion for the court involving all of the interested persons. Interparty probate can occur either because the will is offered for probate directly to the court rather than the clerk or because the party has appealed the original clerk’s ex parte order, qualifying a different party to serve.

An Alexandria Probate Attorney Can Be a Guide

Many people have not had exposure to how probate works and, if they have, may not be familiar with the process in Virginia. An experienced Alexandria probate attorney will be able to explain the process and give you a good idea of what to expect. It is also helpful to have a lawyer by your side who can guide you through certain required filings such as an inventory and accounting, which can be complicated. Call today to learn more.