Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018

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If you’re the legal heir to the estate of a recently deceased Virginia resident, you most likely have questions about Virginia probate law – the area of the law that deals with the collection and distribution of a person’s assets after their death. However, depending on the size of the estate in question, you may be able to bypass Virginia probate court altogether.

Bypassing Virginia Probate

Probate is a process designed to help the heir or beneficiary to the decedent’s estate with the legal transfer of property. Though probate court is not a fun experience for anyone, it is a far cry from the adversarial process of civil and criminal courts. In probate court, you are the main party, and you are there because you want to close the decedent’s estate and get an official stamp of approval of the plan embodied in the decedent’s will.

If a will was left at the time of death, and the decedent owned real property that was listed in his or her name, then that estate should be probated in order to transfer titles smoothly, legally, and accurately. This process helps ensure that the value of assets is preserved should they ever be sold later (assets with unclear titles are suspicious and often shied away from by buyers).

If the estate was relatively small, bypassing probate in Virginia is possible. However, any personal property existing solely in the decedent’s name may still need to be probated, especially if some of it cannot unquestionably be transferred to the intended party under some other Virginia statute. If personal property has all been accounted for accurately, and there is no real property (unless the real estate will pass by survivorship as detailed in the deed of ownership), then the will doesn’t need to be probated. Remember, though, that probate of a will is never requiredby law: it is meant to be a tool to ensure the proper, orderly, and accurate transfer of assets upon the death of a property holder.

Additional Virginia Probate Resources:

Bedford County Probate Court

Fairfax County Probate Court

Also, see our article on Virginia Probate Procedure.