Paying Claim for Bills and Expenses of Administration in Virginia

Evaluating and reviewing an individual’s debt and being sure it is compliant with the procedures of the Commonwealth of Virginia is important. It is also important for personal representatives to be transparent and inform their dedicated estate administration attorney of any debts that they are aware of, and to begin to collect that information so that a proper plan for distribution can be made clear of any of those valid debts.

The personal representative will review any of the debts or claims that are filed against the estate, and determine whether or not they are allowable or enforceable. When an estate is solvent and the debts are valid, then a personal representative may move forward with paying all of the debts and claims of the estate.

Filing Claims

Typically, a claim is for a debt that a decedent had prior to death that remained unpaid. Creditors who are either unsecured or secured can come forward and file a claim requesting payment from the estate assets. If the personal representative knows of a debt but no claim is filed, the personal representative may still need to deal with the debt. For example, in some cases, debts are secured.

A common misunderstanding about the process of estate administration is that the creditors receive some sort of automatic notice that someone has passed away. In many cases, their alert is that whatever the required notice is, or by the personal representative or the executor who may know that a debt is due. There is a prescribed period in which individuals must file a claim. Whether or not a claim is forfeited will depend on whether or not the debts and demand hearing has already occurred.

So, even though a debtor did not come forward against the estate, they are still secured against the decedent’s assets. Whether an executor has to pay a claim or a debt where they know one exists will depend on the nature of the debt.

Duties of a Personal Representative

When an estate has assets sufficient to pay all relevant claims or debts, it is the responsibility of the personal representative to pay those obligations. However, in the event an estate does not have adequate assets to pay all of the claims or debts, Virginia law provides an order of priority detailing which expenses or debts that should be paid first.

Generally, that order of priority first calls for the payment of costs and expenses of administration, followed by family and home allowances. These are followed by funeral expenses, after which are medical and hospital expenses due from the decedent’s last illness. Finally, debts and taxes due to Virginia, debts due whereby the decedent was acting in a fiduciary capacity, debts that are owed to Virginia localities or municipal corporations, and all other claims are paid.

As a general rule, the personal representative is not personally liable for any outstanding claims. However, liability could arise in a situation in which a personal representative did not act in good faith or did not distribute pursuant to the direction of a will or the priority of payment for claim and debts.


An inventory is a list of all of the probate assets and the market value of such assets, inclusive of the required supporting documentation to reflect the market value of the asset as of the date of death. Inventories are not required in the administration of all Virginia estates.

The purpose of the inventory is to show the starting value of the assets as of the date of death. The inventory is filed with the commissioner of accounts, who reviews the inventory before it is filed with the clerk’s office. Generally, distributions are not made until after all of the assets have been marshaled, the creditor’s period has expired, and all claims and debts have been paid.

Appraisers are often used to evaluate business interests, real estate, and tangible personal property to determine a fair market value of the assets. This is done for the purpose of calculating the gross taxable estate for a federal estate tax and in order to create the inventory.


Generally, an accounting is a list of all the transactions that have occurred since the inventory or the date of death. This includes any incomes, dividends, dividend reinvestments, and returns of principal, as well as any payments of any of expenses or debts.

Accountings are not required in the administration of all Virginia estates. However, the purpose of the account is to show how the estate has been administered and to show that all items have been properly disposed of. The better record keeping is for an estate, the better it is and easier it is to complete the accounting for that estate.

Generally, the accounting is reviewed by the commissioner of accounts prior to being filed with the clerk of the court for the county in which the decedent either resided or in which the estate is being probated.

Assets Used to Pay Debt

The Commonwealth of Virginia has specific laws that govern the payment of claims and the procedure to pay claims and, typically, it will involve how the debt originally arose and whether the debt is one that should have been canceled at death. It will also involve the consideration of whether the debt was secured or unsecured, and it will depend on where in the probate process a claim is presented to determine how it will be dealt with.

Contacting an Attorney

An attorney can help advise the executor what their obligations are with regards to claims or debts. An attorney can also assist with being present at the debts and obligations hearing if requested or review whether or not such request may be beneficial in an estate.A skilled lawyer can assist with creating an inventory of the assets, evaluating all known debts and claims, and making a plan for distribution of the assets either pursuant to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or pursuant to the last will and testament.

An attorney can help to collect or inventory the assets so that it can be determined whether or not the estate is solvent and what assets would be available to pay any claims or debts.