When a loved one dies, you are sure to have numerous questions about the estate administration and probate process. These issues can be complicated, and if not handled properly, they can cause lengthy delays. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have further questions or would like to speak with an attorney about probating an estate or how to avoid some of these issues in your estate, do not hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!
What Happens During the Probate Process?
The process of probate typically starts with the recording of the deceased person’s last will and testament in the Circuit Court, which Circuit Court the documents are recorded in depends on where your loved one lived. Probate administration, by contrast, is more than just recording the Will, and frequently comprises the substantial responsibility of qualifying (getting appointed) as executor and administering the decedent’s estate.
It is not always necessary to qualify as an executor under a Will. In reality, qualifying before the Court may make estate administration unnecessarily expensive, and difficult. You should always speak to an experienced probate attorney before deciding to qualify, because as we say, there are no “take backs.”
What Is the Executor’s Role?
Family members and beneficiaries are in mourning after the death of a loved one. Often, the personal representative or executor is also in mourning. Executing a loved one’s final wishes through the probate process might seem like a way to help a personal representative or executor process their feelings. This is, however, the wrong approach to take.
The work of an executor is like running a small business. The stakeholders are the creditors and beneficiaries (in that order), and there are important duties to be carried out. Assets must be identified, protected, and consolidated. The executor must step into the decedent’s shoes to wrap up their personal affairs too. For example, the deceased family member’s taxes must be reviewed and made current. While on the subject of taxes, there may be tax filing obligations for the estate itself. Then there are filings (inventory and accountings) with the Circuit Court (through the Commissioner of Accounts who oversees the process on behalf of the Court).
It can be a time-consuming and paper-intensive operation. Depending on the circumstances, the individual who takes up the responsibility of executor may be frustrated with the process of dealing with creditor or beneficiary issues.
If you are appointed as executor or administrator, it is critical that you follow the proper processes. Otherwise, despite your best intentions, you risk making costly mistakes and/or exposing yourself (and maybe the estate) to financial liability or legal ramifications. When we work with administrators, our approach is to link arms and walk you through the steps necessary to administer the decedent’s estate in line with his or her desires and in conformity with Virginia probate laws and federal tax regulations.
How Long Will This Take?
It all depends. The duration of probate administration will be determined by the size of the estate, the type of assets and the complexity of the estate plan, as well as the number of creditors and beneficiaries involved. Another significant factor to examine is whether the deceased has minor children. When minor children are involved, transferring the inheritance and establishing guardianship can be time-consuming. All that said, on average probate commonly takes two years from start to finish.
How Much Does Probate Cost?
The cost starts at about 5% of the assets passing through probate. This includes the executor fee, the Court costs, and the Commissioner’s fees. Factors that increase the cost include if you live outside of the area where your loved one died; you may need to travel to oversee certain aspects probate administration, and there is additional insurance required for out of state executors. Any variables like unusual assets, minor or incapacitated beneficiaries, or resolution of disputes with creditors or among beneficiaries only drive the cost higher.
Learn More About the Probate Process
If you’re interested in learning more, we invite you to attend our free probate workshop. The workshop is available “on-demand” and covers some of the key areas where people make mistakes. If a loved one has recently died and you need answers about how to proceed, please contact us so we can help. We offer a complimentary consultation for families trying to navigate probate.