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Understanding the probate process

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2023 | Probate |

When someone dies in Virginia, probate refers to proving the validity of the decedent’s will. Once the court validates it, formal administration refers to the appointment of an executor, management of the estate and transfer of assets to the beneficiaries.

The executor plays a big role in this process, which can take months or years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. There are times when probate or formal administration is not necessary.

Things that do not require probate or formal administration

According to Virginia’s Judicial System, some of the assets that do not go through probate include:

  • Life insurance and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries
  • Joint accounts that have right of survivorship
  • Real estate with survivorship rights

Estates that have a total value of $50,000 or less also do not have to go through formal administration.

Role of the executor

If the will does not name an executor, the courts will appoint an administrator, and this individual or organization is responsible for carrying out the formal administration of the estate. According to AARP, one of the first jobs an executor has is to identify, locate and place value on the assets named in the will. Next, the executor must keep them safe and secure until their distribution.

The executor must inform creditors about the decedent’s passing and pay debts owed. He or she must also continue to pay necessary bills, such as the mortgage. Another duty is to file taxes for the estate and pay any taxes due. If the estate does not have adequate cash for expenses, the executor must sell assets to pay. After the payment of debts and expenses, and the final filing of taxes, the executor may then distribute the assets to beneficiaries.

The Executor also has to file inventories and accountings with the county Commissioner of Accounts office along the way to show what the Executor is doing with the assets.

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