How to Probate a Will in Virginia

By Beverly Bird

In Virginia, the probate process is handled by the circuit court in the county where the testator, the person who left the will, lived at the time he died. As of December 2010, probate in Virginia is generally only required when an estate's assets -- minus those that pass directly to a beneficiary, such as life insurance and real estate with rights of survivorship -- total more than $5,000.

Step 1

Call the circuit court clerk in the appropriate county and make an appointment to meet with him. Take the original will and a certified copy of the death certificate with you. If the will is not self-proved with a separate notarized statement that it is authentic, you must also take at least one of the will’s witnesses with you to attest to that effect. When you meet with the clerk, you must give him an estimate of the estate’s value and pay a probate tax, 10 cents for every $100 of value.

Step 2

Take an oath of office as executor of the estate and post a bond. If you are not the only beneficiary in the will or the testator hasn’t waived this requirement, the bond must equal to the value of the estate to insure against any wrongdoing on your part while you are in office. The clerk will give you a certificate of qualification authorizing you to act on the estate’s behalf.

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Step 3

Send written notice to all beneficiaries and heirs, or those closely related to the testator who would have inherited if he had died without a will. The notice advises them that the will is in probate and that you have been appointed as executor. You have 30 days to do this. You can get a preprinted form for the notice and instructions for completing it from the circuit court clerk. It should include a statement that just because someone is receiving the notice, it does not necessarily mean he is going to receive a bequest.

Step 4

Secure the testator’s property and gather all assets. Contact insurance companies, his employer, Social Security and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, if applicable, to arrange payment of any death payments due to the estate. Within four months of taking office, you must submit a list of all assets, complete with their values, with the county’s Commissioner of Accounts, an attorney appointed by the court to monitor the probate process, unless the total value of the estate is less than $15,000.

Step 5

Determine who the testator owed money to, if anyone. Confer with an accountant to find out if estate taxes are due. If so, have returns prepared for the estate, as well as individual state and federal returns for any income the deceased earned in the last year of her life. Pay all taxes due first before you begin paying off the deceased’s debts.

Step 6

Distribute the estate’s remaining assets to the beneficiaries in the will. They cannot demand that you do this until six months have passed since the date of the testator’s death and you should wait until all debts and taxes have been paid before you disburse the bequests. You can then close the estate.

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How Do I Probate a Will in Alabama?


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What Is a Notice of Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for determining and gathering the assets of a deceased person, known as the decedent, paying his debts, and distributing his assets to his beneficiaries and heirs. Although state law varies regarding specific procedures, notice of probate is meant to accomplish the same thing in every state; that is, notice of probate gives parties who have an interest in a decedent's estate warning that the probate process is being initiated. As beneficiaries may not know they were included in a decedent's will, notice gives them an opportunity to assert their rights at the very beginning of probate administration.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Beneficiary's Inheritance?

It’s not uncommon for the beneficiaries of a will to become impatient with estates' executors as the probate process drags on and on. However, the executor may not be moving slowly. She must complete several tasks before she can make the decedent’s bequests to his beneficiaries. If she jumps the gun and distributes bequests too soon, the court holds her personally responsible if she runs out of money to pay the decedent’s taxes and debts.

Probate Laws for No Will in the State of Maine

Maine probate courts oversee the distribution of decedents' estates to their heirs. When a person dies without a will, thus leaving an intestate estate, Maine probate statutes govern how the intestate estate should be divided. Probate judges appoint personal representatives, also called administrators, to distribute intestate estates to heirs. Generally, an administrator must gather estate assets, pay estate debts and convey the net assets to heirs within approximately one year of appointment.

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