Virginia Beach Probate Lawyers

In the movies, when a person dies, there is often a reading of the will where surviving family members learn about whether or not they will inherit. In reality, the process of distributing a person’s assets is usually far less dramatic – and far more technical. In many cases, assets will be distributed and debts will be paid through a process known as probate.

In Virginia, probate is a court-supervised legal process that may be required after a person (decedent) passes away. Whether a person dies testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will), an executor or personal representative will be appointed to gather assets, pay debts and taxes, and ultimately transfer assets to the appropriate heirs. A Virginia Beach probate attorney can help to make the process as straightforward as possible.

At Poole, Brooke, Plumlee, our team of estate planning lawyers have extensive experience with all aspects of probate. We will work collaboratively with you, working to streamline the process and ensure that probate is completed properly. Reach out to our law firm today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised legal process that is often necessary after a person (known as a decedent) dies in order to transfer property listed soley in their name. It is the official way to prove and record a last will and testament as valid and authentic. It is not required for small estates, or if the decedent did not own any property in their name alone.  Property that passes by beneficiary designation or that is held as a joint tenant with right of survivorship does not require probate.

Probate starts with the filing of the original Will in the Circuit Court in the county where the decedent is required. If there is a Will, then a person may have already been named as the executor or administrator of the Will. Otherwise – or in the case where a person died intestate – the court will appoint a personal representative.

The executor or administrator is considered the legal representative of the deceased. They may be the surviving spouse, another family member, or any other person named by the decedent. In some cases, an attorney is named to be the administrator of an estate.

The executor is responsible for collecting all of the assets of the deceased, paying creditors, and finally distributing all assets to heirs or other beneficiaries in accordance with the Will or Virginia’s intestate succession laws. These general duties contain many more specific tasks, such as having assets appraised to determine their value, verifying debts, and filing tax returns.

Probate is not required for all Virginia estates. First, if a person only owns property that passes via operation of law, they may not have any probate assets. Assets that pass by operation of law include property held with a right of survivorship such as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as husband and wife as tenants by the entirety. In addition, assets that pass via beneficiary designation also do not require probate.  These assets can often be transferred to the new owner without probate. Further examples of these types of assets include life insurance proceeds, assets held in a revocable living trust, property with a designated beneficiary, such as 401(k) or IRA accounts, bank accounts, and brokerage accounts. 

Second, if the decedent passed away with few assets, then probate may not be necessary. For real estate, if the decedent died intestate, then the heirs can file an affidavit with the court clerk. For personal property, if the value of all assets does not exceed $50,000, then the beneficiaries named in the Will can complete a simple affidavit instead of going through probate.

The regular probate process is required for most other estates. Because probate can be a time-consuming, complicated undertaking, some people choose to develop an estate plan that avoids or minimizes probate, such as by using a trust. If probate is necessary, then your best option is to work with a seasoned Virginia Beach probate lawyer who can guide you through each step.

The Probate Process

The probate process starts with the filing of the original Last Will and Testament at a local Circuit Court Clerk’s office. While there isn’t a set time frame for when probate must begin, it is generally recommended that estate administration be started within 30 days after death.

In addition to filing a Will, you will likely have to fill out forms. This includes making a list of the assets owned by the deceased and the approximate value of these assets. You should also bring a copy of the death certificate to the court with you.

The court will either appoint the person named in the Will as the executor or appoint another person if necessary. The executor must take an oath that they will faithfully perform the duties required. They must also give a bond in an amount at least equal to the value of the estate unless the will waives a surety bond. The executor or administrator has a fiduciary duty to the estate, which means that they must act in the best interests of the estate.

Within 4 months of being qualified, the executor must file a complete inventory of the estate to the local Commissioner of Accounts. They must also give written notice of qualification or probate to heirs and beneficiaries within 30 days. Until the final accounting is made and the estate is closed, the executor must make an accounting of the estate on a yearly basis.

Being appointed as the administrator or executor of an estate can be daunting, as the process requires a fair amount of time and attention to detail. It can also be challenging for many executors, as family dynamics can be stressful, particularly if one heir contests the will. A skilled Virginia Beach probate lawyer can assist you with the process, helping to ensure that probate is completed properly and with as few complications as possible.

How a Virginia Beach Probate Attorney Can Help

Probate is an important, if tedious, process. It is the best way to ensure that all of a loved one’s affairs are settled and that their assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes. To simplify matters, an attorney can be appointed as the executor of an estate or can be hired to assist with the administration of the estate.

Based in Virginia Beach, the legal team of Poole, Brooke, Plumlee represents clients throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have experience in a diverse range of practice areas, including estate planning, probate, trust administration and estate and gift taxes, which makes us well-suited to assist in probate matters. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach probate lawyer, call our law offices at 757-499-1841 or fill out our online contact form

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