Probate is when the court supervises the process of making sure the decedent’s assets are distributed to the designated person(s) and decedent’s debts are paid. Probate happens if you have a Will or you have no documents at all. Having no documents at all is called dying intestate.

A lot of people erroneously think by drafting a Will they avoid probate. That is not true.

If you have a Will it should be signed before a notary and in front of two witnesses. If it is only witnessed by one person it has not been executed properly. If the will was witnessed by two people but not notarized, at your death one of the witnesses will need to sign a paper saying they saw you sign it.

Original Wills

You need the original Will not a copy of the Will. Sometimes lawyers keep the originals for clients. Sometimes lawyers retire or go out of business and do not return them.

Bond

If you do not have a will, or your will does not waive bond, your executor will need to post a bond. Even if your will waives bond, if you have an out of state executor, the executor will need to post a bond.

Inventory

The executor will need to file an inventory. That is a list of all of the probate assets and their value.

Accounting

The accounting documents that show what happened to the value of the assets from the start of probate until the date of the filing of the final accounting. The executor needs to show documentation for everything. The accounting does not use basic accounting terms. It uses different terms so many executors do not understand how to fill out this document. It is most common for people to hire an attorney at this point if they have not already.

Other

Probate take about 18 months to 24 months in Northern Virginia because the courts are so busy.

If you have real property going through probate, by statute you cannot get the proceeds from the sale of real property for 1 year from the start of probate. The title company can choose to keep the money in a non-interest bearing account. Many times you can pay a fee to the title company and they will let you get the money out early. However, it is up to the title company. To avoid this you need a revocable trust or a transfer on death deed.