Small Estate FAQ

Is probate or qualification necessary for estates that do not exceed $50,000 in value?

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 64.2-601 if an estate consists of personal assets (personal property not real property) that do not exceed $50,000.00, 60 days have passed since the date of death, the will has been recorded if there is a will, and no personal representative has qualified in any jurisdiction, a Small Estate Act Affidavit may be issued to any person as the designated successor to receive. A certified copy of the death certificate is also required.

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 64.2-602 any person having possession of a small asset valued at $15,000 or less may pay or deliver the small asset to any successor.

Is there any way to avoid the need to qualify as executor or administrator if there are only a few assets to transfer?

There are several Virginia statutes, including the ones referred to as the “Virginia Small Estate Act” that permit transfer of certain assets in a decedent’s estate without an executor or administrator.

Suppose the only asset was a motor vehicle?

Probate or qualification may not be necessary in this case. Please contact the Division of Motor Vehicles for further instructions.

What needs to be done if the estate may be insolvent?

If the estate is insolvent, you must pay the debts in a certain statutory order of priority. If you pay debts out of order, you may be personally liable for these debts of an insolvent estate. See §64.2-528 of the Virginia Code for this information and/or consult an attorney for legal advice. An insolvent estate exists where the debts of the decedent and the estate are greater than the assets of the decedent and the estate. Be very careful in handling an insolvent estate.

How is the value of an estate determined?

To determine the value of the estate you will need to compute separate sub-totals for real estate/property and personal estate/property.

Real Estate/Property - The value of all real estate that was solely in the decedent's name. Do not include property that was held jointly with the right of survivorship. The local county/city assessment will be used to determine the value. Dinwiddie County's assessments can be viewed online. The tax map also has the assessments. Do not deduct any mortgages or debts on the property.

Personal Estate - Personal assets that was in the decedent's name only at the time of his/her death which may include: bank accounts, savings accounts, certificate of deposits, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, life insurance policies and other types of securities, as well as personal belongings and vehicles. Do not include accounts that are held jointly or assets payable to a named beneficiary (e.g. life insurance policies with a named beneficiary) or assets in a trust or assets payable on death. Estimate the fair market value of the assets as of the decedent's date of death. Sometimes you will only have an estimate of the value. An estimate is sufficient but try to make it as close as possible. Do not deduct debts owed, loans or mortgage amounts.