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  • Does an Estate Have to Go Through Probate in Virginia?

    It depends. Typically, it’s a requirement when someone dies without a will or with assets in their name only. Going through probate isn’t necessary under special circumstances. Specific assets can be kept out of probate altogether. Instead of waiting for the court to authorize the distribution, named beneficiaries automatically receive non-probate assets in the estate.

    What Is Probate?

    Probate is a legal process for the court to validate a deceased person’s will and authorize the estate’s personal representative to distribute assets. The personal representative is someone chosen by the deceased in the will. If they don’t designate someone to manage the estate, the court can appoint someone.

    Once the court validates the will, the personal representative can administer the estate. The court will oversee the personal representative’s administration of the deceased’s final wishes.

    Circumstances Requiring Probate in Virginia

    Probate laws in Virginia are complex. Navigating the requirements while handling an estate can be confusing. Various scenarios can determine whether an estate must be probated and when the surviving family can avoid the court process.

    Typically, a will must go through probate if the deceased:

    • Dies without a will
    • Has a will and is the sole owner of real property or personal property with a value greater than $15,000
    • Has an estate valued at $50,000 or more

    How to Avoid Probate

    Instead of going through probate, heirs can use a particular procedure for small estates. If the deceased has a small estate and doesn’t have a will, the personal representative or surviving heirs can file an affidavit with the court clerk to receive the asset. Named beneficiaries in the will can complete an affidavit to obtain distribution of the deceased’s personal property if the deceased’s assets don’t exceed $50,000 in value.

    Additional ways to avoid probate include:

    • Create a revocable living trust – A revocable living trust doesn’t have to go through probate. You can transfer assets into a trust while you’re alive and designate beneficiaries for the account. When you die, your chosen trustee can transfer assets to named beneficiaries without waiting for the court to validate the will.
    • Set up a right of survivorship – If you have real estate, adding someone else to the title as a joint owner with a right of survivorship can avoid probate. The other owner can assume sole control of the asset upon your death without waiting for permission from the court.
    • Add a transfer-on-death (TOD) designation – A TOD designation allows an asset to transfer to a beneficiary or beneficiaries upon the original account holder’s death. You can add a TOD designation on stocks, bonds, and other investment accounts. Your broker or bank can provide a form to allow you to list the percentage of allocations for each beneficiary on the account.
    • Add a payable-on-death beneficiary – Designating a payable-on-death beneficiary on a bank account transfers ownership when you die. Your beneficiary doesn’t have to go through probate. They become the owner and receive the funds remaining in the account.
    • Hire an attorney – An estate planning attorney has experience setting up estate plans and avoiding probate for as many assets as possible. When you hire a lawyer, you can make plans that will allow your family to avoid the headache of dealing with the probate process. They won’t have to wait to receive the assets that are rightfully theirs.

    Contact Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Today

    Protecting your assets and your family’s future is essential. Your loved ones won’t have to endure a tedious probate process if you use the appropriate estate planning methods. If you want to learn more about creating an estate plan to avoid probate, call Anchor Legal Group, PLLC at 757-529-0000 for a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney in Virginia Beac