What to Expect from the Virginia Probate Process
Probate is the official proving of a will as the last will and testament of a decedent. Generally, the term probate is used to describe the court process of administrating a decedent’s estate after death. A probate attorney in Virginia can assist with guiding a client through the probate process and simplify it for the deceased’s family. They can assist with preparing any of the necessary court reports, in reviewing and collecting the assets, and in making an inventory of all the assets of the estate.
To begin the Virginia probate process, it is necessary for an individual to present the last will and testament to the Clerk of the Court and to seek to qualify as an executor or administrator of the estate. To qualify as a personal representative, an individual must be over the age of 18 and they must be able to obtain a bond or surety. They may be a resident or a non-resident of Virginia, but if a non-resident is choosing to qualify then they may need to go to the Clerk’s Office with a Virginia resident. They must also satisfy to the Clerk of the Court or to the court itself that they are suitable and competent to serve.
An individual can seek qualification at the circuit court either before the clerk or the deputy clerk for the county or city where the decedent died or owned other property, where the decedent was a resident or the decedent has real estate. Once someone is qualified to serve, they receive a letter of testamentary which gives them the authorization to act on behalf of the estate. The duties of a personal representative include commercializing all the assets, paying any of the legally enforceable debts, filing the required tax returns, and then making distribution either to the laws of intestacy in the Commonwealth of Virginia or pursuant to the terms of the decedent’s last will and testament.
Length and Commitment of Process
A person can expect for the probate process in Virginia to take anywhere from six months up to a year or more. Generally, there is a creditor period, so an estate cannot be completely distributed and closed prior to the expiration of the six-month period. The factors that will determine probate and a length of probate will be whether or not there was a testamentary trust, whether there are family disputes or complications and what level of estate planning was done prior to the death of the decedent.
The time commitment for the personal representative or executor will be dependent on the nature of the probate administration process. It will also be determined by the total size of the estate or the market value as of the date of death, the complexity and amount of the assets, and whether or not there are family disputes. The time commitment will vary from case to case.
Taking time off of work will depend on whether or not the individual has to appear or attend the court hearing. They may need to take time off of work to attend or to make an appointment with the Clerk of the Court to seek qualification to serve on behalf of the estate.
Expectations for a Personal Representative
After someone has passed away, family members and beneficiaries are grieving. Often the personal representative or the executor is grieving as well. In all of these cases, it is important to remember that everyone grieves differently. Beyond the paperwork that is required in this process, it is helpful to remember that individuals such as the executor and the beneficiaries of the case are also dealing with significant emotions.
Sometimes, attorneys have seen that serving as the executor or personal representative has allowed some individuals to grieve or help them to grieve the loss of the loved one that has passed away. Carrying out the loved one’s last wishes through the probate process can help a personal representative or executor to mourn.
All the probate cases can be different dependent on the case. Often, someone else is stepping into the shoes of the decedent to close up their personal matters. There may be times where there are surprising loose ends that individuals are not aware of, or the individual is frustrated with the process of having to deal with family or beneficiary disputes. It can also be a paperwork intensive process.