Administration of Estates
The purpose of this section is to better inform the general public of procedural matters involved in the administration of estates. Nothing contained herein is intended to advise anyone as to legal remedies for a particular circumstance.
The Clerk cannot render legal advice. It is our desire, however, that the information herein contained will prove to be of use to the reader in answering general when, where, why, and how questions. Specific procedural questions may be answered by calling the Clerk's Office at 434-799-5168. If you have a problem involving substantive legal interpretation it is suggested that you contact an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
General Information and Procedures
- Circuit Courts and the Clerks and Deputies of said Courts have jurisdiction to qualify persons as representatives on a decedent's estate.
- The person(s) named as Executor in the will have the right to qualify as a representative on a will. If that person is not a resident of Virginia, a Virginia resident may have to be named to accept service of process.
- If no person is named as Executor or there is no will, then the surviving spouse has the first right to qualify, followed by the other natural distributees (children, parents, etc). Anyone having an interest in the estate (e.g., a creditor), may qualify if no natural distributee applies within thirty days.
- It is not always necessary to have someone qualify on a decedent's estate. It is possible that qualification of a personal representative may be unnecessary if the estate consists solely of:
- Real estate held with full rights of survivorship. An example would be when a husband and wife own their home jointly, with full rights of survivorship, that is, when the surviving spouse would automatically inherit the other's half interest. (However, this may not eliminate estate tax filing requirements.) You should discuss this with your accountant, tax adviser or attorney.
- Joint bank accounts (checking or savings).
- Insurance or bonds payable directly to a living beneficiary.
- To have a will admitted to probate, the personal representative must present the will to the Clerk for proof (if there is not a self-proving clause in the will), either by the testimony of the subscribing witnesses (two, if possible) or two disinterested persons in the case of a holographic (handwritten) will.
- Arrange for surety (security) on the bond unless surety is waived by law or the will itself.
- Furnish a list of heirs-names, degree of kinship, addresses and whether or not over the age of eighteen years.
- After qualifying on the estate, the personal representative must:
- Mail a "Notice of Probate" to each beneficiary under the will and to each heir.
- File an inventory with the Commissioner of Accounts, within four months of qualification. Subsequent accounts will also be required. (This will require a fee to be determined by the Commissioner.) The Commissioner of Accounts is located at 217 Lynn Street, Danville, Virginia 24541, phone 434-792-2355.
- Contact the Department of Taxation to determine whether Estate Tax must be filed.
- There are over 200 sections of the Code of Virginia that deal solely with administration of estates. The purpose of this information is to answer common procedural questions.
The Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court is committed to public service. We are dedicated to providing our patrons with excellent customer service and will assist you with any questions or concerns about our policies and procedures.
However, we are prohibited by law from giving legal advice, restating the law or recommending legal action. It is not the intention of our office, nor of this web site, to offer legal solutions. Questions regarding interpretation of the law should be directed to an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The purpose of this information is to better inform the general public of procedural matters. Nothing contained herein is intended to advise anyone as to legal remedies for a particular circumstance. Circuit Court Clerks and their Deputy Clerks cannot render legal advice.