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Myths about Estates in Virginia

Hollywood loves drama, and nothing is more dramatic than death. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s version of what happens with the Last Will and Testament and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s version are not the same.

And, just to make it more confusing, every state has its own laws about wills and estates. For instance, in North Carolina you need not necessarily go personally to the courthouse in order to become the executor of the estate; in Virginia, you must go to the courthouse in person in order to become the executor of the estate.

Here are two common questions, and the answers in Virginia:

When will we have The Reading of The Will?

There probably won’t be one. Virginia law doesn’t require you to sit through a lawyer reading the last will and testament to the family and the beneficiaries. Typically, the person who is named as executor in the will makes an appointment to take the original will to the courthouse. Once the court records the will, the executor mails out copies.

The bank told me only an executor can close out the bank account.

You have an option to close accounts without becoming the executor. In order for the option to be available, answer these questions:

(i) find all bank accounts, stock, bonds, etc., that are in just the deceased person’s name (no joint owners);
(ii) add up the total of all of those accounts, stocks, and bonds -- are they less than $50,000.00 all together?;
(iii) if there is a will, are the beneficiaries of the will exactly the same as the living next of kin?; and
(iv) are all of the beneficiaries over the age of 18 and of sound mind?

If you can say “yes” to all of those questions, then you can use a “Small Estate Affidavit”. Click here for the exact steps. You may go to any notary public, have the notary public swear you in, write your answers to each of the numbered paragraphs 1 through 8, and you and the notary sign and date the completed answers. The Affidavit takes the place of becoming the executor.

Any of our attorneys are qualified to review your situation and propose solutions that meet your needs. If you have any questions or problems settling an estate, please call us to schedule an initial consultation.