A bond is based the total value of the estate. It is required if the decedent died in testate, the will does not waive bond or if the executor is from out of state. The bond has to be renewed every year. The person who serves as executor must be bondable if applicable so it is important not to choose someone who has bad credit.

Ancillary probate

If the decedent has out of state property then a probate will need to be open in Virginia and in the state where the property is located. The second probate is called an ancillary probate.

Elective Share

Under Virginia Law a surviving spouse has the right to claim one-third (1/3) of a decedent’s estate if the decedent left surviving children or descendants, or one-half (1/2) of the decedent’s estate if the decedent had no surviving children or descendants


A legal doctrine under which property belonging to a deceased person with no heirs passes to the state.

Fiduciary Duty

An obligation to act in the best interest of another party. For instance, an insurance company has a fiduciary duty to its insured, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to the trust’s beneficiaries, and an attorney has a fiduciary duty to a client.


A person who would naturally inherit property through a will, or from another who died without leaving a will. Sometimes probate documents will ask for the heirs even though these people are not necessarily the beneficiaries.

Inter-Vivos Trust

A trust set up during the lifetime of a person to distribute money or property to another person or organization (as distinguished from a person who transfers money or property after death).


A court’s authority to rule on the questions of law at issue in a dispute, typically determined by geographic location and type of case.


The failure of a gift of property left in a will because when the testator dies the beneficiary is deceased and no alternate has been named.

Self-Proving Will

A will accompanied by a sworn statement signed by the witnesses under penalty of perjury. Many states accept such wills in order to avoid the cumbersome process of requiring an executor to track down the witnesses.

Specific Bequest

A specific item, distinguished from all others of the same kind belonging to the testator that is designated in the will as going to a specific beneficiary. If the specific item is no longer in the estate when the decedent dies, then the request lapses and cannot be made. However, specific bequests are made before the residue of the estate. Therefore, if the estate is spent down it is possible the beneficiaries receiving specific bequest will get something while beneficiaries who are supposed to get the remainder of the estate will be left with nothing.

Tangible Personal Property

Personal property that takes a tangible form, such as automobiles, furniture and heirlooms. Although such items as stock ownership and copyrights may be represented in the form of paper certificates, the actual property is not in physical form and therefore considered intangible personal property.

Testamentary Trust

A trust created by the provisions in a will. Typically comes into existence after the writer of the will dies.

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