How Does the Probate Process Work in Virginia?

Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s property and assets after their death. The law refers to the person who died as the decedent during the legal process. If a decedent dies with a valid will, the decedent’s assets will be distributed according to the terms of their will. Virginia’s probate laws would govern the distribution of the decedent’s assets if the decedent died without a valid will. Probate isn’t always required after someone passes away; it depends on the decedent’s assets. 

We know that navigating the death of a loved one is already a complicated experience. At PJI Law, PLC, our experienced Northern Virginia probate attorneys can help you distribute assets and handle the legal complexities on your behalf. 

Qualifying as an Executor

A person can initiate the probate process by bringing the last will and testament of the decedent to the Clerk of the Court and asking to qualify as an executor of their estate unless the decedent already named an executor or personal representative in their will. If you seek to begin the probate process, you must go to the Circuit Court in the city or county where the decedent passed away or owned property.

To qualify as an executor, a person must be over 18 years old and acquire a bond or surety, although that may sometimes be waived. You must also convince the court that you’re competent and capable of serving as the executor. Individuals who live outside of Virginia may still be eligible, but a Virginia resident must accompany them to the Clerk’s Office.

What to Expect During Probate

After a qualified executor has initiated the probate process, the Circuit Court Clerk or Deputy Clerk will validate the will. Then, the executor can perform an inventory and create a list of the decedent’s assets. The executor will present the list to the Commissioner of Accounts once the inventory is completed. The executor must also file an income and expense accounting with the Commissioner of Accounts.

The executor is also responsible for paying all bills and tax returns left by the decedent and settling all financial matters that were left unresolved, including debts and claims made against the estate. The executor might also need to deal with individuals who might contest the will. PJI Law can assist in resolving those matters in probate court. A trusted lawyer from the team can assist with, and manage, this entire process.

When Is Probate Necessary?

Some assets do not need to go through probate in Virginia and may be directly disbursed to the beneficiaries. Non-probate assets could include retirement accounts, payable-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts, joint tenancy assets, property in a living trust, and life insurance payouts.

Probate is especially beneficial if the decedent owned property solely in their name — probating the will formally transfers the title of the property to the recipients or heirs according to the will. Typically, probate is essential whenever a decedent dies and leaves behind property titled exclusively in their name. However, if an estate is small enough, probate may not be required, and the survivors can go through a streamlined process instead.

How Long Does the Probate Process Last?

Probate can be a time-consuming process. It can take as few as six months or go on for multiple years. Typically, after a person dies, state law prevents the closure or distribution of an estate before the end of the creditor period. 

A variety of elements can affect the length of probate. These include the existence of a testamentary trust, familial disagreements, individuals contesting the will, and the degree of estate planning the decedent completed before they died. The number of assets and the size and value of any real estate upon the decedent’s death can also impact the length of estate administration.

Navigating the Probate Process

Death often results in various emotions and reactions from the decedent’s loved ones. In many cases, serving as the executor or personal representative can help individuals through the grieving process. 

Probate can also lead to surprises in the wake of an individual’s death. When managing the decedent’s affairs, their executor may encounter information that they are not expecting about that person. At PJI Law, PLC, our clients always come first. Our team of professional probate lawyers have experience guiding individuals through every step of the legal process. We know that grief can be complicated, so we strive to take as much stress and frustration out of the process.

PJI Law, PLC:  Northern Virginia Probate Attorneys You Can Rely On

At PJI Law, PLC, we pride ourselves on offering superior services that our clients can trust. Each PJI Law client gets our total commitment, personal attention, and courteous, prompt service. Our skilled team responds quickly to each client, and we use the latest innovative technology to provide the best experience possible. 

If you are looking for a Northern Virginia “probate attorney near me,” our team of probate attorneys located in Fairfax, Virginia, will provide personal attention to every detail and aspect of your case. Our practice areas include probate, estate planning, and estate litigation. To schedule a consultation, call our team at PJI Law, PLC today at (703) 865-6100. You can also fill out our online form here.


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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 865-6100

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