Probate and Administration of Estates


Probate is the official proving of a will, as the valid and genuine last will and testament (original, not a photocopy) of a decedent by admitting the will to record in the Circuit Court Clerk's Office where he or she resided at his or her death. If the decedent died in a nursing home, then that person's legal residence is presumed to be where he or she resided prior to becoming a resident at such institution. The term is also used to include the process of qualifying a person as an executor of a will or administrator where there is no will. If a decedent dies without a will the court appoints an individual to receive all assets (solely in the name of the decedent), receive all claims, pay all creditors and then distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with Virginia state law.


It is necessary to probate the will when the decedent owns assets, whether personal or real estate, solely in his or her name (assets that do not have a joint owner with right of survivorship, beneficiary named, or payable upon death designee). Assets include personal property such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, savings bonds, stocks, retirement accounts, and other types of valuable items, including personal belongings and vehicles. There is no set time limit to which a will must be probated or estate administration must begin. It is recommended however that you begin the process within thirty (30) days after the death of your loved one.

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