Probate refers to the administration and distribution of a decedent’s estate. The will outlines who gets which assets, and there is a process by which this occurs.
The person who administers the estate is the executor, and this individual has numerous duties to fulfill before the closing of the estate.
When formal administration is not necessary
According to Virginia’s Judicial System, not all estates or assets need to go through the formal administration of probate. These include:
- Estates with a personal property value of less than $50,000
- Motor vehicle title transfer
- Life insurance proceeds
- Financial accounts that have right of survivorship
Basic probate process
For estates that go through formal administration, one of the first steps is to present a copy of the death certificate and the original will to the Clerk’s Office of the Circuit Court. Once probate is open, the court will appoint an executor, and it is often the individual named in the will. This individual proceeds with the probate process.
Duties as the executor
FindLaw discusses that one of the main duties of the executor is to locate, gather, valuate and safeguard the decedent’s assets. The executor opens a bank account for the estate, stops recurring and unnecessary expenses and maintains upkeep on the decedent’s property.
The executor collects debts owed to the estate and pays existing debts and bills such as the mortgage and utilities. If there is not enough cash to pay for these expenses, the executor can liquify the assets as needed. If there are improper claims against the estate, the executor can challenge these in court.
The executor files tax returns for the estate and pays any taxes due. Once the collection, and paying, of debts is complete, the executor distributes the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries and is then able to close the estate.