Intestate Estates          

“Probate” is a word commonly used to refer to the process of dealing with a deceased person’s assets. However, “probate” literally means to “prove a Will.” Where there is no Will, a person is said to have died “intestate” which literally means “without a Will.” Even though there is no Will to probate, certain steps still must be taken to establish a chain of title on the city or county records for the deceased person’s assets.

While each person’s situation is unique, below you will find answers to some common questions regarding Intestate Estates:


Mother died, and we found a Will. What do we do?

This page doesn’t apply to Mother. Click here for our Probate Estates page.


Mother didn’t leave a Will (or, we don’t know where it is). What do we do?

If Mother owned property in her own name and she died without a Will, upon her death that property became (1) the property of other persons, and/or (2) subject to the claims of creditors. Depending upon what Mother owned at her death, someone may need authorization to retitle or sell Mother’s property. If this is the case, someone will need to qualify as administrator of Mother’s estate. This will provide someone with the credentials to deal with Mother’s property.


Can we do this on our own, or should we hire a lawyer?

You can do this on your own. Or you can hire a lawyer. Attorneys at WILSON LAW FIRM, PLC are comfortable preparing and submitting all of the documentation to the Clerk’s Office in advance of your probate appointment, to ensure that your probate experience goes smoothly and that you are in and out of the Clerk’s Office in a relatively short amount of time. Often, during the initial consultation with your attorney, other issues are uncovered which may be better resolved or investigated prior to appearing before the Clerk.


What information do we need?

When you go to qualify, you will need an ORIGINAL death certificate, an approximate value of all of the property owned solely by Mother at her death, your driver’s license, and your checkbook. Having a detailed accounting of Mother’s assets will be important in the coming months, but not at this stage.


What do we need to do before heading to the Clerk’s Office?

Regardless of whether you hire an attorney, an appointment needs to be made with the Probate Clerk in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. In many instances, you may also need to be prepared to post a bond in an amount greater than or equal to the total value of Mother’s estate. If this is the case, you will want to arrange for a local bondsman to meet you at your probate appointment so that the bond can be in place. Attorneys at WILSON LAW FIRM, PLC appear regularly before the Clerks, have relationships with bondsmen in many Virginia jurisdictions, and can arrange all of this for you.


Who needs to go?

The person appearing before the Clerk seeks to be qualified as the administrator. The administrator’s role will be equivalent to that of an executor of an estate for someone who died with a Will. There are rules on who can qualify as an administrator, and when they can do so depending upon their relationship to Mother. Sworn affidavits by other of Mother’s relatives or creditors disclaiming the right to qualify may be required.


What is the administrator’s role in the probate process?

The administrator is responsible for (1) identifying, locating, and collecting Mother’s assets, (2) identifying, locating, and notifying those relatives who stand to inherit a share of Mother’s assets, (3) filing the appropriate paperwork with the Clerk of Circuit Court and the Commissioner of Accounts, (4) to the extent that Mother’s assets can satisfy her creditors, paying all of Mother’s debts, (5) distributing Mother’s remaining assets in accordance with the intestacy laws then in force in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more, click here for our Estate Administration page.


Where do we need to go?

The administrator property qualifies in the jurisdiction where Mother was a resident at the time of her death. If Mother lived in a nursing home or other care facility at the time of her death, her residence is presumed to be located where she was a resident prior to being admitted to any care facility. If Mother owned real estate in more than one state, someone will need to qualify (or those state’s equivalent process) in each of those states.


What next?

After the administrator has qualified, you will want to open an estate account, file Mother’s last income tax return, file an estate tax return, file documents with the Commissioner of Accounts (namely the Inventory and the Accounting). WILSON LAW FIRM, PLC attorneys can assist you in preparing your legal documents and ensuring that your filings are timely, as well as referring you to tax professionals who can assist you in preparing your tax forms for filing with the Internal Revenue Service. Along the way, you may need to pay bills, assert or defend legal claims, sell real property, transfer titles to personal property, and make other distributions. Click here for our Estate Administration page.

Contact Us now, to discuss any Estate Settlement or Estate Administration questions you may have.



Wilson Law Firm represents clients throughout the Roanoke and New River Valleys and the surrounding areas, including Roanoke City and Roanoke County, Salem City, Botetourt County, Bedford County, Franklin County, Rocky Mount, Montgomery County, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Campbell County, Lynchburg, Forest, Craig County, New Castle, Pulaski County, Pittsylvania, Chatham, and Smith Mountain Lake.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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