Estate administration can seem overwhelming.
Estate administration in Virginia is, at first glance, an overwhelming duty that can seem like an unduly harsh reality after the death of a family member or loved one, but there is time to grieve. Honor your loved one first.
The administration of an estate depends on the circumstances.
The first question to determine is whether the deceased person had an estate plan or not. If they had a Last Will and Testament, the process is called probate. If they did not have any estate plan, they died “intestate” and the process is called estate administration. The rules and deadlines differ slightly depending on the circumstance (estate plan vs. none).
In Virginia, the probate process does not have a starting timeline, however, it is recommended that you begin within 30 days of the death. If you feel that you are in a position to help the decedent as the estate executor or administrator, but feel intimidated by the logistics, please note that you are entitled to consult an attorney, at the estate’s expense. Regardless of the size of the estate, your good faith contribution will be appreciated by every beneficiary.
If a valid will has been recovered, the person named as executor, if willing and able, is the ideal candidate to initiate the probate process. If no will has been found, then any person can qualify, but usually a beneficiary or co-beneficiaries qualify on behalf of the estate. In either case, an appointment with the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in the City or County where the decedent lived or owned property is the first step. At that time, request additional forms that will be required for probate. The number of forms can seem overwhelming for non-attorneys. Please remember that court employees cannot help you complete every necessary form.
In order to “qualify” as the personal representative of an estate, you must set an appointment with the clerk’s office in the appropriate jurisdiction. There are specific rules on which jurisdiction an estate may/should be administered. On the day of the meeting, arrive prepared with all necessary documentation, and the Clerk will help with any forms that were not complete. After everything has been submitted, you should qualify as the executor or administrator of the estate. Qualification is the process of being sworn-in as a good faith representative of the estate. Additionally, the executor or administrator must give bond equal to the value of the estate per Va. Code Ann. § 64.2-504 . Surety may or may not be required depending on the how the Will has been written. Make arrangements accordingly.
Contact an Estate Administration attorney if you need help.
Once you are appointed as executor or administrator, that is simply the beginning of a long and arduous process. Once appointed, you must now answer to the Commissioner of Accounts for your specific jurisdiction. They are not able to give you legal advice. Our office handles estate administration and can assist personal representatives with all aspects of maintaining and closing an estate. You do not have to go through the process alone. We are here to take the burden off your shoulders during this stressful time.
 The process is slightly different if the person died without a Last Will & Testament. In that instance, there can be competition to get to the Courthouse first to qualify as the administrator (“Personal Representative”) of the estate.
Virginia Estate Administration | Ryan C. Young | Richmond, Virginia Attorney