Wills & Administration of Estates

The clerk’s office handles probate of wills and qualification or appointment of executors and administrators and trustees by scheduled appointments that can be arranged by calling our probate division.  

It is the responsibility of the person administering an estate to know the law.  Clerk's office staff members cannot give legal advice, but they will make the process easier to navigate. Once you determine whether or not the deceased person had a will or had assets at the time of death, call the probate division with your procedural questions or to schedule an appointment.

The Virginia Bar Association publishes “A Guide to the Administration of Decedent’s Estates in Virginia,” which can be a helpful source of information; however, please note that the guide is not updated as frequently as Virginia probate laws change. Some laws mentioned in the guide may have since been amended.

Determining Whether There is a Valid Will

After a person dies, it is important to determine if he or she left a valid will.  Legally speaking, a person dies ‘testate’ if he or she left a valid will and ‘intestate’ if there is not one.  The heirs of a person who dies intestate are determined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia in effect at the time of death. VA Code Section 64.2-200   VA Code Section 64.2-201

Probating the Will and Qualifying as Executor

Probate is the process of proving a will is valid and making it part of the permanent public record. Probate may be the first step in administration of an estate, followed by the appointment of an executor, but appointment of an executor does not always happen when a will is probated.

Administering an Estate Where There is no Will

If the deceased person did not have a will, an administrator, rather than an executor, often is appointed to handle the decedent’s estate. The person(s) having preference for appointment as administrator can be found in VA Code Section 64.2-502.

Where Wills are Probated and Executors and Administrators Appointed

Probate of a will and appointment of an executor or administrator occurs in the circuit court clerk's office of the locality where the deceased person has a known place of residence. If the deceased person did not have a known place of residence, VA Code Section 64.2-443(A) describes the alternate jurisdictions that can be used.

Depending on the circumstances, if the deceased person was a patient in a nursing home prior to death, the legal place of residence for such person may be presumed to be the same as it was before becoming a patient. VA Code Section 64.2-443(B)

Handling a Small Estate

Qualification as executor or administrator may not always be necessary. The Virginia Small Estate Act beginning with VA Code Section 64.2-600 addresses situations where the decedent’s entire personal probate estate does not exceed $50,000.

Probating the Will and Qualifying as Executor

Schedule an appointment at the clerk’s office with a probate clerk.  Gather the following documents and information and bring them with you to the appointment.  Generally, you will be asked to send copies by facsimile to the clerk’s office prior to the appointment.

  • The original will. If the will is self-proving you do not need to bring witnesses to the will or depositions of witnesses. If you are not sure if the will is self-proving, ask the probate clerk prior to your appointment.
  • If the executor named in the will does not want to serve, he must submit a notarized letter to the clerk's office stating that fact. If the named executor is deceased, a death certificate is required
  • A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
  • The approximate dollar value of the solely owned personal property (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, automobiles, etc.)
  • The fair market value of real estate (or partial interests in real estate) located in Virginia owned solely by the decedent
  • The names, ages, addresses and relationship to the decedent of the decedent’s heirs at law as defined by VA Code Section 64.2-200
  • Cash, check, VISA or Mastercard to pay fees based in part on the value of the estate

Qualifying as Administrator

Schedule an appointment at the clerk’s office with a probate clerk.  Gather the following documents and information and bring them with you to the appointment.  Generally, you will be asked to send copies by facsimile to the clerk’s office prior to the appointment.

  • A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
  • Names, ages, addresses and relationship to the decedent of the decedent’s heirs at law as defined by VA Code Section 64.2-200
  • The approximate dollar value of the solely owned personal property (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, automobiles, etc.)
  • The fair market value of real estate (or partial interests in real estate) located in Virginia owned solely by the decedent
  • Cash, check, VISA or Mastercard to pay fees based in part on the value of the estate

Estate Administration Forms

  • Virginia's Judicial System Fiduciary Forms web page has forms that can be filled in and printed
  • Use the print for submission to court button at the top of the form rather than the print feature of your internet browser. The clerk’s office cannot accept forms that have gray bars in any fields.

Out-of-State Resident Executors and Administrators

A person who is not a resident of Virginia may be appointed or allowed to qualify as the personal representative of an estate under appropriate circumstances. VA Code Section 64.2-1426

Finding more information

  • Seek legal advice from a professional experienced in the field
  • Title 64.2 of the Code of Virginia

Questions about Reporting Responsibilities or Closing the Estate

The Commissioner of Accounts who is an attorney appointed by the circuit court to oversee the actions of executors, administrators and trustees and is responsible for reviewing and approving inventories and accountings.  Contact:
W. Rand Cook, Esq.
8122 Mechanicsville Turnpike
Mechanicsville, VA 23111
Phone: (804) 559-4219
Fax: (804) 746-4025


Forms and Documents