Probate is a court-supervised process that involves inventorying a deceased person’s assets, paying outstanding obligations, and distributing the remaining assets to the appropriate heirs. It is handled by the circuit court in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of their death. 

Understanding probate Alperin Law

Probate is not required in all circumstances. In fact, many people take estate planning steps to avoid probate because it can be time-consuming and costly. It is also a matter of public record, which can present privacy concerns.

Determining If Probate Is Necessary

Some types of assets can be distributed to their new owners without probate. Common non-probate assets include:

  • Life insurance proceeds or pension benefits payable to a named beneficiary
  • Assets such as a home owned with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety
  • Assets with a listed beneficiary outside of the deceased person’s will such as an IRA or payable-on-death bank account
  • Assets held as part of a revocable living trust

If the deceased person had very few assets subject to probate, the estate might be able to skip probate proceedings and file a small estate affidavit.

Steps in the Probate Process

The general steps in the probate process are as follows:

  1. The person named as executor in the will brings the original will, a certified death certificate, and an estimate of estate assets to the circuit court clerk.
  2. The executor completes a form listing all heirs with a claim to the estate assets.
  3. Probate fees and taxes are paid from estate assets.
  4. The circuit court gives the executor a certificate of qualification showing the legal right to temporarily manage the deceased’s assets.
  5. Assets are inventoried, and any necessary appraisals are completed.
  6. The executor files an inventory of estate assets with the Commissioner of Accounts.
  7. Outstanding debts and taxes are paid.
  8. The remaining property is distributed as outlined in the will or in accordance with Virginia intestate succession laws.
  9. The executor submits an annual accounting showing all assets and distributions—supported by the appropriate receipts, bills, bank statements, or other relevant documentation.
  10. The court reviews the paperwork and closes the case to relieve the executor of their duties.

Alperin Law Is Here to Help You Through The Probate Process

When you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, the probate process can seem overwhelming. However, you don’t have to handle everything on your own. Contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office directly to learn how our probate, estate, and trust administration attorneys can be of service. We serve all communities in Eastern Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Isle of Wight County, Hampton, the Eastern Shore, and Northeastern North Carolina, including Currituck, Elizabeth City, and the Outer Banks.


Scott Alperin
Experienced Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney Serving Virginia Beach Area Clients Since 1994.