Probate Attorney near Staunton
Guiding Clients through the Probate Process
When a loved one passes away, life can become very complicated for those they leave behind. At the same time, family members are trying to process and cope with their loss, they must handle important legal processes to settle the deceased’s estate. This process is known as probate, and it must be carried out whether the deceased died with only a will in place or no estate plan at all.
Norton Health Law can guide you through probate proceedings and assist with the administration of a loved one’s estate. We understand the emotional impact that a death in the family can have on anyone, so rest assured that we can provide the compassionate legal support you need during this difficult time. Our goal is to minimize the impact that probate can have on your life so you can process your loss with the assurance that a legal professional is helping you work through the details. Whether you are the executor named in the will or an interested party to someone’s estate, Norton Health Law’s probate attorney near Staunton can meet your needs with personalized and proactive service.
Interested in learning more about how we can help? Schedule a free consultation by contacting us online or calling (434) 216-4020.
What Is Involved with Probate?
Probate proceedings in Virginia are conducted by the county’s circuit court. You can expect a circuit court clerk to be assigned to the case, and a judge may not even be necessary unless litigation or other complications become apparent.
Probate proceedings typically involve the following actions:
- Initiating Probate: If a valid will was left by the deceased, the executor files it with the court. Also needed during this time is a copy of the death certificate, estimated estate value, and the list of the deceased’s heirs. At this time, heirs and creditors of the deceased must also be notified.
- Naming a Personal Representative: The court will assign a personal representative to the estate. This is typically the executor named in the will, but in intestate cases where there is no will, someone from the family may be appointed to this role. The personal representative is a fiduciary to the estate and the deceased’s heirs, which means they have a responsibility to manage the estate’s financial assets according to the interests of the heirs.
- Inventorying the Estate: The personal representative must take an inventory of the estate’s assets and property to determine a real total value.
- Repaying Creditors: Once the estate’s value is determined, the executor must pay off all valid debts owed by the deceased as filed by their creditors. If there is a dispute about a debt, this may need to be litigated. Debts are paid with the estate’s assets and property. If not enough cash is available, the executor must sell off property to generate new cash.
- Preparing a Final Tax Return: The executor must also prepare an estate tax return and submit payment to the IRS.
- Disburse Assets to Heirs: Only after creditors and the IRS have been paid may the deceased’s heirs inherit their property, distributed by the executor according to instructions the deceased left behind.
- Closing the Estate: To wrap things up, the executor or personal representative must officially relinquish their authority over the estate, which prompts the court to close it.
Of course, this process is much more complex than we can explain here. This is just to give you an idea as to what you can expect. Our probate attorney near Staunton can walk you through each step of the way and clearly explain what must be done, even handling some tasks for you along the way.
You Can Avoid Probate for Your Loved Ones
If you are creating an estate plan, understand that probate isn’t inevitable. Norton Health Law can help you take advantage of a variety of estate planning options and arrangements that can bypass the probate process.
You can avoid probate by establishing the following and more:
- Trusts: By placing assets and property into a trust, you remove them from your personal property. This means there isn’t anything to probate. Many people use revocable living trusts instead of a will to provide inheritance instructions, although backing up a trust with a will is often the safest option.
- Joint Tenancies: If you are married, you can arrange a joint tenancies ownership of your home with your spouse. This means that when either of you passes on, the surviving spouse automatically assumes ownership of the home without getting the courts involved.
- Payable-on-Death Accounts: Certain brokerage and bank accounts can be set up to pay out to designated beneficiaries when the original owner dies. As with joint tenancies, this happens without the need for probate.
- Beneficiary Designations: If you have an investment, such as a life insurance policy, designating a beneficiary to receive a payout skips probate.
Norton Health Law Can Help You
If you need a probate lawyer near Staunton, Norton Health Law is can provide the legal support you need. Our advice and services are customized to each client’s individual needs, which means you can rest assured that you’re getting legal assistance tailored just for you.
If you want to take advantage of a free consultation with our lawyer, please contact us online and ask how you can schedule yours today.