Rights of Interested Persons in Virginia
Interested individuals are the heirs to an estate or the individuals who are named in a last will and testament as prescribed by Virginia law. A common misconception is that if an individual is an heir, they are set to inherit from an estate. Someone may be named as an heir but a will or a trust may supersede any assets being distributed to that individual.
Individuals that are interested persons in the estate will generally be kept abreast of any court-required notices and they may be alerted when an individual has been appointed to serve as the executor. An experienced Virginia estate attorney will help you to understand your rights as an interested person.
Limit of Rights
Some of the limits of rights found are first understanding that just because an individual is an interested person does not necessarily mean they are the beneficiary of the assets of the estate. Being interested generally means that person is required to receive notice pursuant to the laws at times when notice is required, but that does not mean they will be kept abreast of what is going on with the estate, or even the assets that are in the estate.
Common Reasons to Invoke Rights
Whether or not an interested person has any rights regarding the estate will depend on whether they are also a beneficiary or an heir of the assets and what they are entitled to. Individuals that are heirs of estates have certain rights pursuant to the laws of the Commonwealth regarding the assets of the estate.
Conflicts Between Interested Persons and Personal Representatives
Conflicts depend on the nature and the size of the case and depend on the nature of the conflict. Of course, any conflict that is resolved in court comes typically at a cost to both the estate and the individual that is presenting the conflict to the court. Matters that can be resolved outside of court typically can be more cost-efficient and can also serve to heal any family dynamics after the estate administration procedure has concluded.
When conflicts arise to require court intervention or any litigation, often, they can cause delay to the administration of the estate and result in a delayed distribution of the assets while significantly increasing the cost for the estate administration.
A common misconception is the understanding how assets pass at death, and this affects what the individual is entitled to. For example, if a parent dies without a last will and testament and they had had one bank account in their sole name that was valued at $10,000, and they had several assets that had been titled jointly with one child, then although three children are present and may be entitled to the probate assets, only the one child may be entitled to the assets where they are named as a joint owner.
When the child that is not a joint owner of those accounts thinks of their parent’s assets, they may think of all of the assets in their totality but not realize that only the assets in their parent’s sole name are available for distribution through the estate. Often, individuals do not realize the consequences of adding a beneficiary designation or jointly titling assets, and what that would mean for their rights to those assets in the estate administration process.
Sometimes, interested persons think that they have the ability to comment or weigh in on all of the decisions of the executor. However, this is not necessarily the case. The executor or personal representative can act within the confines of the duties, rights, and responsibilities afforded to them in will or in Virginia law. Because of this, it is not necessary for a personal representative to consult with all of the heirs to make every decision on the estate. Although they will typically keep the heirs abreast of the status of the estate, they are not necessarily required to seek their input for every decision throughout the administration.
Contacting an Attorney
It is important to understand the general nature of the probate process when dealing with the rights of interested people and to explain how the process operates whether you are seeking appointment as an executor or you are interested in the estate as an heir.
If an interested person has a question or a concern regarding how a personal representative or executor is administering an estate, it is important to bring that question or concern to the attention of either counsel or the court in a timely manner. Often, the sooner that such issues can be resolved, the more amicably such resolution can be achieved.
It may also be helpful to review the law with regard to probate, and to understand the probate administration procedure is no one that is accomplished in just a few weeks as it typically takes about a year to complete for most cases, and an experienced Virginia attorney will best be able to help your case during this time.