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What personal representatives of estates need to know

Personal representatives, or executors, of estates need to be aware of the procedure that is used to probate an estate with a will. The executor who is designated in the will must make an appointment with the probate division to probate the will and become qualified to serve as executor. To do this in Virginia, the executor is required to be a resident of the state, but statutes will permit out-of-state residents to become eligible. When the executor is not a Virginia resident, a resident of Virginia is required to go with the executor to the Probate Office to either co-qualify or be assigned as a resident agent.

If the executor does not desire to serve, the executor is required to produce a notarized statement declining the appointment. Any alternates mentioned in the will are then considered. If no alternates are mentioned, or if any alternates relinquish the right to serve, then an administrator c.t.a. will need to be appointed.

If the designated executor is deceased, the alternate executor or administrator c.t.a. has to produce a copy of the death certificate at the probate appointment. If the executor would like to be removed, then the executor is required to file a petition for a removal, along with a filing fee.

The basic responsibilities of an executor are:

  • to inform interested parties of probate;
  • filing an affidavit or notice;
  • filing an inventory;
  • filing a settlement of accounts or statement instead of accounts;
  • filing income, inheritance and estate taxes;
  • paying all payroll taxes due;
  • paying all debts;
  • distributing remaining assets in accordance with the will or intestate law.

An executor must be informed of the kinds of actions that are considered to be unacceptable.

Here are a few things that the executor should refrain from doing:

  • Distributing assets too soon — as an executor, you should not distribute any assets until there is an accounting of assets and possible liabilities.
  • Using estate assets for personal gain — if you use the assets for personal reasons, you will have to return the funds to the estate, and may face criminal charges.
  • Neglecting to pay taxes — make certain that all taxes are paid.
  • Disregarding court orders — you must obey the judge’s orders.
  • Distributing assets prior to paying bills — you must pay all liabilities prior to distributing assets to the heirs.
  • Disregarding claims against the estate — do not ignore creditors unless a court instructs you to do so.
  • Carrying out your responsibilities without consulting an attorney — Consulting an attorney is an effective way of making certain that you correctly fulfill your duties and do not make any errors.

By adhering to these rules, you can properly carry out the responsibilities associated with being an executor.

The elder law attorneys at Hook Law Center assist Virginia families with will preparation, trust & estate administration, guardianships and conservatorships, long-term care planning, special needs planning, veterans benefits, and more. To learn more, visit http://www.hooklawcenter.com/ or call 757-399-7506.

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