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Arlington Probate Lawyer

After a family member’s death, their estate may require probate administration before any assets can be distributed.  Probate is the process of administering a person’s estate by marshalling the estate’s assets, paying their final debts and distributing estate assets.

Navigating probate on your own can be a difficult task. Schedule an appointment with an Arlington probate lawyer today and find out more about how these attorneys can help. A dedicated trusts and estates lawyer can guide you through the probate process to help it go as smoothly as possible.

The Basics of Probate

Unlike many states, Virginia does not have a dedicated probate court system. Instead, these cases are handled by the circuit court, usually in the county where the deceased resided.

The probate process differs depending on whether the deceased died with a valid Last Will and Testament.  If there is a will, distribution of the assets is made pursuant to the terms of the Last Will and Testament. If the decedent died without a valid Last Will and Testament, the property in the estate is distributed pursuant to the terms of Virginia’s intestate succession statutes. This statute determines which relatives should receive a certain percentage of the deceased’s estate. In general, the more closely related a person is to the deceased, the more property they will inherit.

The person in charge of managing the probate case is known as the executor or personal representative. If the deceased had a Last Will and Testament, the document usually names an executor to handle the administration of the estate. If there was no will or if the executor declines to fulfill their role, the Virginia laws of intestacy provide an order of priority of individuals that are permitted to serve.

Smaller estates can often skip most of the probate process. Pursuant to Vir. Code Ann. §64.2-601, an estate valued at less than $50,000 can be administered by affidavit.

Role of the Personal Representative

The executor of the estate has many fiduciary duties. Primarily, the executor’s duties include marshalling the assets of the decedent’s estate, reviewing and paying any legally enforceable debts, preparing and filing any required income and estate tax returns, and then making distribution pursuant to the decedent’s Last Will and Testament or the laws of intestacy. The executor has authority over all of the assets and property in the estate and must protect those assets for the benefit of the deceased’s heirs until the estate is settled.

The executor will be charged with compiling a list of all of the assets in the estate and their value. Some items, like real estate, may need to be appraised. The executor will need to collect all income, payments, or refunds owed to the deceased and must keep track of any claims from creditors. Once the deceased’s creditors are paid and there are no outstanding debts, the personal representative will need to find the deceased’s heirs and distribute the estate’s assets to any and every person entitled to inherit under the will or through intestate succession.

Settling Probate Disputes in Arlington

The probate process can become complicated when someone contests a will or challenges a person’s right to inherit from the deceased. Will challenges frequently happen when the deceased chooses to leave their estate to someone other than their close relatives.

People can challenge a will or trust for several reasons. They may allege that the deceased was not of sound mind when they created the will or was unduly influenced by a person in a position of power or trust. Virginians can also contest a will if they believe it was signed under duress or if it was obtained by fraud.

Disputes are also common when a will is vague or does not fully distribute all of a person’s property. If there are disputes between the heirs or beneficiaries about which items belong to whom, the executor may have to litigate the issues in front of the judge.

Learn More from an Arlington Probate Attorney Today

Executors and personal representatives have great power and responsibility during a probate case. If you were named executor, an attorney can help you fulfill your duties. Probate lawyers can help with compiling and valuing assets, making sure taxes and debts are paid, and distributing property to heirs.

Contact an Arlington probate lawyer today and find out more about how an attorney can help you.