Probate

Probate is the official proving of a will as the authentic and valid last will and testament of a deceased person by admitting the document to record in the appropriate Clerk's Office. Probate of a decedent's estate should take place in the City or County where the deceased person resided at his death. If the decedent died in a nursing home or similar institution, then that person's residence is presumed to be where he or she resided prior to becoming a patient at such institution. It becomes necessary to probate an estate when the decedent owns assets (personal or real estate) solely in his name, i.e., assets that do not have a joint or co-owner with rights of survivorship.

Left a Will


If the decedent died with a Will, what you should I bring to the Clerk's Office:
  • The original Will.
  • A certified copy of the death certificate or copy of the obituary.
  • In some instances, it may be necessary for witnesses to the Will to be present, or depositions of witnesses may be required. The Probate Clerk will examine the Will for a self-proving clause; a determination cannot be made over the telephone.
  • A named executor residing outside of Virginia who wishes to be appointed as executor must bring a Virginia resident to the probate appointment to either co-qualify or be designated as a registered agent.
  • The approximate dollar value of the solely owned assets for both personal property (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, automobiles, etc.) and the fair market value of real estate located in Virginia which must pass through probate.
  • The names, ages and addresses of the heirs-at-law. The heirs-at-law are not necessarily the beneficiaries of the Will. Heirs-at-law are determined by kinship to the deceased and are set by Virginia law.
  • If the executor named in the Will does not wish to serve, a waiver must be presented to the Clerk signed by the named Executor. If the named executor is deceased, a death certificate is required.
  • Fees may be paid by check, cash, and credit or debit card.
Note: All fiduciaries must be bonded. State statutes and certain language contained in the Will govern whether the bond is with or without surety. The Probate Clerk will set the appropriate bond at the time of qualification.

Left No Will


If the decedent left no Will, what you should I take to the Clerk's Office:
  • A certified copy of the death certificate.
  • Names, ages and addresses of heirs-at-law. The heirs-at-law are determined by kinship to the deceased and are set forth in the Virginia Code § 64.2-200.
  • A non-resident of Virginia who wishes to be appointed as Administrator must bring a Virginia resident to the appointment to either Co-qualify or to be designated as a registered agent.
  • The approximate value of the solely owned assets of decedent for both personal property (stocks, bond, bank accounts, automobiles, etc.) and the fair market value of real estate located in Virginia which must pass through probate.
  • Fees may be paid by check, cash, and credit or debit card.
Note: All fiduciaries must be bonded. State statutes govern whether the bond is with or without surety. The Probate Clerk will set the appropriate bond at the time of qualification

Have Questions


Where can one go for more information or answers to specific questions:
  • Talk to the Clerk of the Circuit Court or the probate clerk. They will give you specific instructions at the time of probate.
  • Talk to your attorney.
  • View Probate in Virginia Administration of Estates (PDF), a comprehensive guide to assist persons who are involved in the administration of a decedent’s estate in Virginia, prepared and issued by the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association.