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Estate Administration in Virginia

How do you know which beneficiaries receive certain assets when a loved one passes away? What does state law require from the estate to repay the decedent’s debts?

For your questions about estate administration, call the Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel law firm from anywhere in Central Virginia at 434-589-2958 and from Powhatan at 804-598-1304 to schedule a consultation.

 We have years of experience in estate administration, estate planning, probate litigation, and more. Let us help your family manage the administration process.

The Estate Administration Process in Virginia

Estate administration encompasses several steps to settle an estate after a death: with creditors, government bodies, and beneficiaries. The steps to settle the estate during estate administration include:

  • Marshaling the decedent’s assets
  • Paying all debts and expenses
  • Filing estate or income tax returns
  • Distributing estate assets to beneficiaries named in a will or according to intestate succession

Depending on which estate planning documents the decedent legally created, there could be additional steps. For example, if the deceased person did not create a will or trust (called “dying intestate”), the probate court would distribute assets beginning with the surviving spouse and moving down the line of intestate succession defined by Virginia Code Section 64.2-200.

If the deceased created a trust with a pour-over will, trust assets would bypass probate entirely for immediate distribution to beneficiaries by the trustee. This can help heirs receive their inheritances without waiting for administration by the probate court, which typically takes 12-16 months.

Estate Planning Documents an Estate Administration Attorney Should Review

A decedent’s estate plan might include several documents with instructions for beneficiaries, executors, trustees, and other related parties. If you are a trustee or executor of a will, you should ask an estate administration attorney to review the appropriate documents to ensure that you follow the instructions correctly. Such documents could include:

  • A revocable or irrevocable trust (a revocable trust will become irrevocable upon the grantor’s death)
  • A last will and testament, possibly with a pour-over clause to “pour” assets into a trust
  • Life insurance policies, especially if in an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT)
  • Retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401s (all subtypes), and other tax-advantaged plans
  • Transferrable on death accounts 
  • Real estate deeds

An experienced estate administration attorney at our firm can help you and your family prepare the necessary documents to submit to the court, financial institutions, and creditors after the passing of a loved one. You will need to provide death certificates, signed affidavits, a list of applicable assets and their value, and other documentation to the appropriate bodies.

You should be aware of the limitations of an insolvent estate, or an estate where the assets of the estate do not meet the decedent’s debts. The Commonwealth of Virginia has strict payment priority for certain debts over others when an estate is insolvent.

Contact an Experienced Central Virginia Estate Administration Attorney

For help reviewing your loved one’s estate planning documents or navigating the complex processes of estate administration, contact us at Commonwealth Life and Legacy Counsel today. Call the Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel law firm from anywhere in Central Virginia at 434-589-2958 and from Powhatan at 804-598-1304 to schedule a consultation.

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