This is part IV of my series on the Virginia Probate Administration process. Part IV discusses the initial phases of probate immediately after the personal representative has qualified. This stage is about getting the proverbial ducks in row by informing the heirs about the decedent’s death. Earlier posts can be found by clicking here – Part I, Part II, and Part III.
One the day of Qualification:
At the time of qualification, a personal representative must provide a list of heirs. The list of heirs must be take under oath on a form provided by the clerk of the court. The heirs listed would be those people considered heirs under the laws of Virginia if the decedent had died without a will.
The form requires basic knowledge of the heirs and would include:
- last known address,
- relationship to the decedent,
- age of each heir, and
- if, an heir has predeceased the decedent (i.e. is already dead), the heirs at law of the deceased heir must be identified and listed.
One note, if the decedent has been dead for 30 days and no one has qualified to probate the estate then the list of heirs can be filed by any heir at law of the decedent.
30 Days after Qualification:
Within 30 days of qualification and filing of the list of heirs, under Virginia Code Sec. 64.1-122.2, the personal representative must give written notice of qualification or probate to interested parties. The notice informs interested parties of their right to receive copies of inventories, accounts and reports filed during the administration of the estate. Generally, interested parties include:
- decedent’s spouse,
- heirs at law, whether or not there is a will,
- beneficiaries under the decedent will, if any, and
- beneficiaries under any will of the decedent previously probated with the court.
The reason for the notice to interested parties is to inform them of their rights as a potential beneficiary. The notice also tells the interested parties that qualification of the personal representative has occurred or probate has commenced and, as an interested party, they have a right to request copies of certain documents filed during the administration.
The notice to interested persons must contain the name of the decedent, date of death of the decedent, contact information for the personal representative, name of the court of the clerk where the personal representative qualified or will is being probated, and the name of the commissioner of accounts appointed to oversee the estate. The notice informs the interested person of their rights and describes the process to request copies of important documents filed by the personal representative including any inventories or accounts.
4 Months after Qualification:
4 months after the personal representative has qualified, the personal representative must file with the clerk of the court an affidavit stating the notice was given to the interested parties as required by Virginia Code. If an affidavit is not submitted, the clerk of the court may not approve an accounting filed with the clerk or can file a motion to show cause why the affidavit was not filed.
After the initial phase of probate as started, the more complicated process of actually administering a person’s estate begins. I’ll delve into the more substantive parts of probate next time.