After a loved one has passed, there are many responsibilities left behind to friends and relatives. One of the most important responsibilities is determining how to allocate the assets and estates of the deceased. This can be incredibly daunting to an individual, especially at such a sensitive time. Administrating an estate in Virginia is a long and involved process, and should be left in the care of an attorney. If you are currently in this situation and are overwhelmed by the prospects of carrying out the wishes of your loved one, it is important to contact a probate attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer can walk you through this careful process while keeping the best interests of you and your loved one in mind.
For probate in Virginia, the proceeding is generally the administration of an estate. It involves administering assets that are in the decedent’s cell name at the time of death. The last will and testament, along with the nature of the assets will help determine what type of proceedings are available in the probate process. They will dictate what requirements are needed to be satisfied in each case.
Opening an Estate
Generally, to administer an estate proceeding in Virginia, either the nominated executor or the person seeking to qualify will contact the Circuit Court. Which Circuit Court is contacted is dependent upon where the individual resided. This appointment is used to petition the court to open the estate. The individual should be a Virginia resident and must be prepared with the proper documentation. If they are not a state resident, a Virginia resident should accompany the individual to the hearing.
The individual should present the clerk with a variety of documents that include:
- The original will
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- An estimate of the value of the assets, if available
- An estimate of the value of the real estate that was held
- Information regarding the heirs at law, or the legatees of the individuals that are named as beneficiaries
- Payment for fees
- A photo identification
Once these items are presented to the clerk, the clerk will assist with opening the estate proceedings.
Duties of an Executor
The chief duty of an executor in Virginia estate administration is to act as a fiduciary for the estate. That typically includes marshalling, identifying and collecting all of the assets of the decedent, and determining how the assets are titled. This also includes determining if there is a beneficiary designation, reviewing and paying the legally enforceable debts, and assisting with the preparation of filing any tax returns that may be due. Final duties include making distribution either pursuant to the terms of the will or according to the laws of Virginia, and testing to see if a decedent died without a last will and testament.
Role of an Attorney
An attorney can help assist an executor or an administrator by advising them of what their fiduciary obligations to the estate would be. This can be accomplished by helping them prepare for the initial meeting with the clerk, and aiding them with opening the probate estate. Administering the estate is an involved process in Virginia, and should be left in the hands of none other than an experienced attorney. A lawyer can also assist with searching and valuing assets as of the date of death. In addition, an estate and trust attorney can assist with preparing any accounting that may be required, and help to create a plan for distribution.