Wills & Administration of Estates

Clerk’s Office Responsibilities: 

The Clerk’s Office handles probate of wills and qualification or appointment of executors and administrators and trustees by scheduled appointments that can be arranged by calling our Probate Division.

It is the responsibility of the person administering an estate to know the law. Clerk’s office staff members cannot give legal advice, but they will make the process easier to navigate. Once you determine whether or not the deceased person had a will or had assets at the time of death, call the probate division with your procedural questions or to schedule an appointment.

View the Virginia Bar Associations, A Guide to the Administration of Decedent’s Estates in Virginia page, which can be a helpful source of information; however, please note that the guide is not updated as frequently as Virginia probate laws change. Some laws mentioned in the guide may have since been amended.

Determining Whether There is a Valid Will:

After a person dies, it is important to determine if he or she left a valid will. Legally speaking, a person dies ‘testate’ if he or she left a valid will and ‘intestate’ if there is not one. The heirs of a person who dies intestate are determined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia in effect at the time of death.

Probating the Will & Qualifying as Executor:

Probate is the process of proving a will is valid and making it part of the permanent public record. Probate may be the first step in administration of an estate, followed by the appointment of an executor, but appointment of an executor does not always happen when a will is probated.

Administering an Estate Where There is No Will:

If the deceased person did not have a will, an administrator, rather than an executor, often is appointed to handle the decedent’s estate. The person(s) having preference for appointment as administrator can be found in VA Code Section 64.2-502.

Where Wills are Probated & Executors & Administrators Appointed:

Probate of a will and appointment of an executor or administrator occurs in the circuit court clerk’s office of the locality where the deceased person has a known place of residence. If the deceased person did not have a known place of residence, VA Code Section 64.2-443 (A) describes the alternate jurisdictions that can be used.

Depending on the circumstances, if the deceased person was a patient in a nursing home prior to death, the legal place of residence for such person may be presumed to be the same as it was before becoming a patient.

Handling a Small Estate:

Qualification as executor or administrator may not always be necessary. The Virginia Small Estate Act beginning with Virginia Code Section 64.2-600 addresses situations where the decedent’s entire personal probate estate does not exceed $50,000. Click here to find the Virginia Small Estate Affidavit Form with Instructions.

Probating the Will & Qualifying as Executor:

Schedule an appointment at the clerk’s office with a probate clerk. Gather the following documents and information and bring them with you to the appointment. Generally, you will be asked to send copies to the clerk’s office prior to the appointment.

  • A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
  • Cash, check, or debit card to pay fees based in part on the value of the estate
  • If the executor named in the will does not want to serve, he must submit a notarized letter to the clerk’s office stating that fact. If the named executor is deceased, a death certificate is required
  • The approximate dollar value of the solely owned personal property (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, automobiles, etc.)
  • The fair market value of real estate (or partial interests in real estate) located in Virginia owned solely by the decedent
  • The names, ages, addresses and relationship to the decedent of the decedent’s heirs at law as defined by Virginia Code Section 64 2, 200
  • The original will. If the will is self-proving you do not need to bring witnesses to the will or depositions of witnesses. If you are not sure if the will is self-proving, ask the probate clerk prior to your appointment.

Qualifying as Administrator:

Schedule an appointment at the clerk’s office with a probate clerk. Gather the following documents and information and bring them with you to the appointment. Generally, you will be asked to send copies to the clerk’s office prior to the appointment.

  • A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
  • Cash, check, debit card to pay fees based in part on the value of the estate
  • Names, ages, addresses and relationship to the decedent of the decedent’s heirs at law as defined by Virginia Code Section 64 2, 200
  • The approximate dollar value of the solely owned personal property (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, automobiles, etc.)
  • The fair market value of real estate (or partial interests in real estate) located in Virginia owned solely by the decedent

Estate Administration Forms:

Virginia’s Judicial System Fiduciary Forms page has forms that can be filled in and printed. Use the print for submission to court button at the top of the form rather than the print feature of your Internet browser. The clerk’s office cannot accept forms that have gray bars in any fields.

Click here to find Assets of the Estate of Decedent Form

Out-of-State Resident Executors & Administrators:

A person who is not a resident of Virginia may be appointed or allowed to qualify as the personal representative of an estate under appropriate circumstances.

Finding More Information: