How Probate Laws Work in Virginia

When a person dies, several things require attention. The estate of the deceased person must be managed until it is distributed to the heirs, and the will must be found and followed in how the estate is to be handled. Family members may have to take care of financial and legal responsibilities even as they grieve.

Probate is the legal method used to disperse the estate. While the basic idea of probate is the same throughout the country, each state has developed its own set of statutes on the process. If you are involved in a testate or intestate estate, you should know the basics about probate.

Is Probate Required in Virginia?

The short answer is yes, probate is necessary in any state. However, there are instances when probate may not be required for a specific estate.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Virginia?

Even though probate will be required for most estates, there are ways to avoid it with careful planning. The best way to accomplish this goal is to place the estate in a revocable living trust with named beneficiaries. Trusts don’t need to go through probate because they are a separate entity from the person who passes away.

Even if the entire estate can’t avoid probate, some assets won’t need to be included. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, securities and stocks don’t need to go through probate since they will have beneficiaries named who will automatically take ownership. Bank accounts with someone listed as payable on death will transfer to that person upon the death of the owner. The bank may require a death certificate before it will allow the transfer of funds.

Vehicles may have ownership transferred without going through probate. They just need to have a payable on death included with the deed.

Property owned jointly won’t need to be listed for probate because it will go to the surviving owner. This most often happens with spouses who own property together or when a person owns a business with someone.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Virginia be Compensated?

Yes, an executor may be paid for the time they spend working on the estate. They may also receive payment for any expenses they have from doing their job.

How Much Does an Executor in Virginia Get Paid?

Virginia doesn’t set a specific amount of percentage for payment to the personal representative of an estate. The guidelines, which are found in Title 64.2 Section 1208 state that payment of reasonable expenses and reasonable compensation is allowed. It is to be decided by the commissioner of accounts and may be comparable to what other executors have been paid in similar situations. The amount will be dependent upon how much work was necessary in handling the duties for the estate.

How Long Does Probate Take in Virginia?

Probate may be a complicated process, which can take months to be completed. Even a simple estate can take four to six months before probate is closed and the heirs receive their inheritance. For larger estates or those with complex situations, the process can last for more than a year or several years with delays.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Virginia?

Most estates will go through probate with the exception of those that have been placed in a trust. However, a small estate doesn’t require formal probate, which allows it to be completed much more quickly. A small estate is defined as having value of less than $50,000 and is only made up of personal property.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Virginia?

A will must be filed with the court in the county where the deceased person lived before their death. Even if the estate doesn’t go through probate, the will must be presented to the court. The court will determine whether the will is valid, especially if someone contests it.

Settling an Estate in Virginia

To settle an estate in probate is much the same in Virginia as in any state. Certain steps must be followed for all estates in probate. However, Virginia statutes provide specific information about timelines and other details which may vary based on the state.

While the steps of probate sound simple, the process can be quite complicated. If you don’t understand any part of the process, an estate attorney can assist.

How Long Do You Have to File After a Death in Virginia?

There is no deadline to file probate after a person dies in Virginia. It is recommended to do so in a timely manner, but it isn’t required by state statute.

Probate Court in Virginia

Virginia doesn’t have a separate court for probate. Rather, all probate cases are handled by the circuit court in each county. You would select the court in the county where the person lived before their death.

Probate Code in Virginia

The statutes governing probate in Virginia are under Title 64.2 of the Virginia Code. You can read these statutes on the General Assembly of Virginia’s website: Code of Virginia – Title 64.2. Wills, Trusts, and Fiduciaries.