Probate Lawyers in Northern Virginia
Looking for an attorney to guide you through the probate process in northern Virginia? Probate is the court-supervised process that occurs after an individual passes away. It involves the distribution and administration of the decedent’s estate. Having to deal with the loss of a loved one is already difficult enough, let alone handling the probate process and administration of their estate. However, the probate process is important in preventing future conflict, particularly with asset disputes or quiet title actions. This can be especially true in order to avoid your affairs being left intestate.
With decades of collective experience, the legal team at HALE BALL MURPHY, PLC Carlson Baumgartner Murphy, PLC is committed to guiding you through the procedure and equipping you with the resources needed to do so. Our attorneys have the skill set and expertise to properly assist clients with their probate needs throughout northern Virginia.
PROBATE AREAS OF PRACTICE
As a seasoned probate law firm in Virginia, we are committed to representing the individual probate needs of our clients. No matter how simple or complex the case may be, our estate planning lawyers can provide comprehensive knowledge and a clear sense of direction to the individuals we work with.
Our areas of expertise in probate law include:
- Probate Process – When a person passes away, their estate is administered through the court process of probate. The procedure begins the appointment of the Executor who becomes responsible for managing the affairs of the decedent and properly administering their estate. This can be a rather complex process and should not be taken lightly.
- Estate Litigation – Legal matters and disputes can often arise during the estate administration process. From will contests to challenges of guardianship and breaches of fiduciary duty, these issues can become rather complicated.
- Will Contests – This type of legal dispute occurs when someone challenges the validity of a will. Whether they believe that the decedent was not of sound mind when creating the legal document or they feel that the decedent was unlawfully forced to create one, a Will contests is a very important legal matter. Not only can these instances put family members against each other, but it can also alter the intentions of the decedent.
DUTIES INVOLVED IN PROBATE & ADMINISTRATION
The administration of a loved one’s estate involves many duties. The probate attorneys at our firm are here to assist you every step of the way with compassionate, caring professionalism, from identifying your estate administration needs to complete all tasks, including:
- Taking possession and control of assets;
- Managing estate assets and income;
- Ascertaining and paying legitimate debts of the decedent;
- Distributing assets of the estate to its beneficiaries or heirs;
- Filing an inventory of the estate assets and one or more itemized accounts of all receipts, disbursements, and distribution of estate assets;
- Filing a variety of tax returns that may include estate tax returns, estate income tax returns, final personal income tax returns for the decedent and probate tax returns;
- Interpreting questions regarding substandard or generic Internet wills;
- Negotiating or litigating contested claims or will contests; and
- Dealing with insolvent estates.
PROBATE LAWS IN VIRGINIA
In Virginia, estate property (assets) may include real property and personal property. Real property assets are usually land or land with structures, such as a single-family home.
Personal property assets may include:
- Tangible property, such as household, jewelry, furniture, and antiques
- Motor vehicles
- Bank or credit union accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Stocks, bonds and other securities
No matter what type of property is included in an estate, a Virginia probate lawyer can assist you as an executor or administrator that becomes responsible for settling the estate.
In Virginia, probate must take place in the county or city of the decedent’s last legal residence. If the decedent was residing in a nursing home at the time of death, the estate would usually be probated in the county or city where he or she resided before admission to the nursing home.
In Virginia, the Probate or Fiduciary Office in the Circuit Court will open a probate estate. The Commissioner of Accounts for each Circuit Court will supervise and review the inventory and accounts required.
WHEN IS PROBATE REQUIRED?
Probate is not always required to handle a decedent’s property. Only property owned solely in the name of the decedent with no beneficiary designated is subject to probate. We can help you determine the difference between probate and non-probate property.
Examples to help you distinguish probate property from non-probate property:
- Joint Ownership: If the property is titled in joint names with right of survivorship between the decedent and one or more other persons, the surviving joint owners are beneficiaries to the property. This kind of property can be real estate, bank accounts, CDs, investment accounts, automobiles, and other items. No probate is required.
- Payable on Death Designations: A bank account, certificate of deposit, investment account or savings bond may have a P.O.D. designation (payable on death). The person named as P.O.D. is the beneficiary. No probate is required.
- Required Assets: As a general “rule of thumb” if a bank, investment firm or another custodian of an asset advises you that an Executor or Administrator is required to collect the asset, then the asset is subject to probate.
STARTING THE PROBATE PROCESS
To begin probate, you must appear before the clerk of the appropriate circuit court to present proof of death, usually a certified copy of the death certificate for the decedent or other acceptable alternate proof of death. If there is a valid will, you must present the original for admission to probate. In Virginia, if the will does not have a self-proving affidavit attached to it, you must “prove” the decedent’s signature. You can do this by bringing at least one of the witnesses who signed the will to appear before the clerk and testify under oath or by obtaining depositions from the witnesses to the will.
If there is no will, the laws of the state where you lived at the time of your death will determine the beneficiaries to the estate and prescribe all rules for administration. A probate lawyer in northern Virginia can appropriately guide you through the legal processes involved.
SEEKING PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
The following is a brief list of some administrative tasks and special situations that might best be handled with a professional’s advice:
- Determining if probate of a will or qualification is even necessary for the estate;
- Identifying heirs-at-law for intestate estates or for meeting notice requirements;
- Identifying assets, valuing assets, marshaling assets;
- Preparation of inventory and accounts;
- Preparation of income and estate tax returns;
- Evaluating and handling creditor claims;
- Insolvent estates (estates with debts that exceed the value of assets);
- Determining spousal and family rights, if any;
- Handling estate litigation or obtaining court guidance for certain issues;
- Proceedings for debts and demands hearings or distribution orders to protect the fiduciary from personal liability for unknown creditor claims; and
- Determining proper distribution to beneficiaries or heirs and timing of distributions.
DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS WITH A PROBATE ATTORNEY
The probate process can feel overwhelming and frustrating at times. From collecting the assets of the decedent to making sure that they are properly distributed to the beneficiaries, it is important to have experienced legal counsel on your side. Our attorneys are skilled in any type of estate or trust matter, including non-traditional trusts like resulting and constructive trusts, and even pet trusts. Whether you need to create an estate or trust, or make sure an estate is completed and closed, our attorneys are here for you.
Call or contact a northern Virginia probate lawyer online to effectively begin your Virginia probate matters!
LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR EXECUTORS
The administration of estates can be complicated, even for small estates. Fiduciaries can save time and reduce liability by obtaining professional advice and assistance with the handling of the estate, taxes, and investments.
Since 1980 the AV-rated law firm of HALE BALL MURPHY, PLC has served the legal needs of individuals and businesses. Our team of attorneys include lawyers named to Super Lawyer and Rising Star lists, as well as attorneys with advanced legal degrees, specialty certifications and lawyers who teach their areas of practice to other lawyers.
Use the contact form on this page to schedule a consultation, or call 703-591-4900.
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