Estate & Trust Administration
Nothing can be more intimidating than the stack of paperwork that the clerk of court hands you after you become an executor or administrator of an estate in Virginia. Some of the forms to be completed during the probate process can be found on the Virginia Court System site. The Virginia Bar Association has published a helpful guide called the “Guide to the Administration of Decedents’ Estates in Virginia."
In a nutshell, the probate process in Virginia includes a trip to the clerk’s office of the circuit court where you will provide information about the deceased person, his or her heirs, and his or her estate. You pay fees and probate taxes, and sign a bond which may or may not require surety. This process is in Virginia is called “qualifying.” Once you have qualified, you must send out a notice to all of the deceased person’s natural heirs, as well as the named beneficiaries in their will. Further, you file an "affidavit of notice" with the clerk stating you have sent all of the notices. You must get an estate tax identification number with the IRS. You typically open an estate checking account, making sure to have access to the copies of all canceled checks. If the estate produces income, you must file income taxes for the estate.
Within four months of qualifying, you must file an inventory of all of the assets of the estate, with the Commissioner of Accounts, along with a filing fee. You pay the proper bills of the estate, and must maintain very good records for everything you pay. Within 16 months you must file an accounting of the estate that outlines each step you took as executor or administrator, and includes copies of all invoices and canceled checks. If the estate has not been closed within a year, you must continue to file accountings until the estate is completely distributed.
As administrator or executor, you must ensure that all bills of the deceased person have been paid or you can be personally liable for unpaid bills. If you need assurances that there are no unknown creditors, we can help you with the “debts and demands” hearing before the Commissioner of Accounts which calls for all creditors of the estate to appear at the hearing, followed by a circuit court “show cause” hearing where all outstanding creditors must appear or their claims will be barred.
Serving as the trustee of a testamentary trust (a trust created by a will) requires a similar process of administration as serving as executor or administrator. There are inventories and accountings, and tax returns to be filed. Further, if you become someone’s court-appointed conservator (of an incapacitated adult) or the court-appointed guardian of the estate of a minor child, you will also have similar duties of administration.
While serving as the trustee of a revocable living trust or inter vivos irrevocable trust does not usually involve court filings, you still have duties of reporting and accounting to the trust beneficiaries, as well as paying taxes on behalf of the trust.
When these duties are too much to comprehend, or maybe clients just need advice or help with a piece of it, we can help the client as much or as little as desired. We will prepare single documents, such as the accounting, and that’s all we do, or we can virtually complete the administration process for the client, including all filings and writing the bills out for the estate, trust, or incapacitated person which the client signs. We also sometimes agree to serve as the executor, trustee, conservator, or guardian of the estate of a minor child ourselves. For more information, follow this link.