What terms are involved in the administration of estates?
The decedent is the deceased, i.e. the person who left the estate. A decedent has died testate if he or she has left a valid will. If a person dies intestate (without leaving a valid will), the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in effect at the time of death, determine who the heirs are and who will therefore receive the decedent's property. The person who the court appoints to administer the estate for the decedent is called an executor if specified in the will or a personal representative if no executor was specified. Executors and personal representatives are also referred to generically as administrators or fiduciaries. Other people involved in the administration of estates include the Commissioner of Accounts (a local person appointed by the circuit court to oversee the administration of estates), the circuit court clerk and his or her deputies, and the circuit court judges.

The will (last will and testament) is a legal document drawn up by a person and/or his or her attorney to specify how a person's property should be distributed and who should administer the affairs of the estate. The List of Heirs is a legal document prepared by the estate's administrator that lists the people specified by the will and/or by law who are eligible to receive distributions from the estate. A copy of a document is certified by a circuit court deputy clerk to indicate that it is a true and complete copy of the original. An exemplified copy also contains the official seals of the judges and clerk of the circuit court.

To probate a will is to officially prove it as the authentic and valid last will and testament of the deceased and admit it to record. Qualification and appointment of a personal representative may or may not accompany probate. If a decedent owns real estate in multiple jurisdictions in Virginia, the will should be probated in the jurisdiction where he or she resided and then a certified copy recorded in the other jurisdictions. If real estate is owned in another state, an exemplified copy of the will must be probated in that state.

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1. What terms are involved in the administration of estates?
2. When should a will be probated, or, if there is no will, when should a personal representative be appointed?
3. Who inherits the property of an intestate (person dying without a will)?
4. How long does it take to probate a will or appoint a personal representative on an intestate's estate?
5. Is it always necessary to have someone qualify as a personal representative on a decedent's estate?
6. Who will qualify as an executor under a will?
7. Who has jurisdiction to qualify administrators on a decedent's estate in Virginia?
8. Where should I go to qualify as a personal representative on someone's estate?
9. What information must I have available at the time of qualification?
10. What are the basic duties of a fiduciary (executor or personal representative)?
11. Is an executor or administrator compensated?
12. Is this everything I need to know about administering estates?
13. What must a personal representative do to have a will admitted to probate?
14. What taxes and fees are associated with probate?