Virginia allows an heir of a person who has died to avoid probate by following a summary administration process using a small estate affidavit. With a small estate affidavit, an heir can usually claim bank accounts and other estate assets much faster and at far less cost than via probate. In Virginia, this process can only be used if the estate is not worth more than $50,000 and at least 60 days have passed since the death. For Virginia estate assets worth no more than $25,000, an even more streamlined process can be used that does not require a small estate affidavit. Talk to a financial advisor if you need help planning your estate or figuring out how to quickly receive an inheritance.
What Is a Small Estate Affidavit?
A small estate affidavit is a sworn legal document a person can use to assert a claim to assets from the estate of someone who has died. If the affidavit is properly completed and the estate is eligible, a bank or other holder of an asset belonging to the estate must turn over the asset when presented with the affidavit.
Using this summary administration process avoids formal probate, which can take months or years and require paying fees that significantly reduce the value of the estate. However, only some Virginia estates can go this route. Here are the state’s criteria for using the small estate affidavit:
- The estate can’t be valued at more than $50,000.
- At least 60 days have passed since the death.
- No one has applied to have an executor appointed.
- The will, if any, has been submitted to the probate court.
Although the will, if one exists, must be admitted to the probate court, this does not mean the estate to go through the full probate process. Submitting the will does require paying probate fees, however.
The small estate affidavit itself does not have to be filed with the court if the signatures have been notarized. If signatures have not been notarized, then the affidavit has to be filed with the court. A correctly completed affidavit can be presented to a bank or other organization or person, which then has to release the assets to the person with the affidavit.
When You Don’t Need an Affidavit
In some circumstances, an heir or success may not even need a small estate affidavit. If an asset is worth less than $25,000, the holder of the asset, such as a bank, can – but is not required to — turn it over to a successor without a small estate affidavit. This is allowed if 60 days have passed since the death and no application to appoint a personal representative or executor has been submitted to any court. If the holder of the asset declines to release the asset, a small estate affidavit can be used to compel the transfer.
How to Complete the Affidavit in Virginia
A template for a Virginia small estate affidavit can be downloaded on the government’s website. Most people can draft and complete the affidavit without help from an attorney. However, the services of a notary will be required if the affidavit will not be filed with the probate court. Multiple notaries may have to be used to certify several signatures if they can’t all be signed at the same time and place.
What Is Summary Administration?
Summary administration is an alternative to the often lengthy and expensive process of administering an estate through probate. It is a form of estate settlement that uses the small estate affidavit.
Speed and cost savings are the attractions of summary administration. Rather than taking months or years as probate can, summary administration can accomplish the transfer of assets almost immediately after someone’s death.
What’s Included in A Small Estate Affidavit?
Virginia law says a small estate affidavit has to:
- Provide the name of the person who died and the date of the death.
- State that the value of the assets in the estate is less than $50,000.
- State that at least 60 days have passed since the death.
- State that no application to appoint a personal representative has been granted.
- Give the names and addresses of all the deceased person’s known successors and heirs,
- Include signatures of all the known successors and heirs acknowledging and approving the use of the affidavit.
- State that the person presenting the affidavit is entitled to receive the assets, and describe the basis for the claim, such as being a spouse, child or another relative.
The person presenting the affidavit also must agree to assume a fiduciary duty to pay over the assets to other successors as required. This has to be stated in writing on the affidavit.
Pros and Cons of Small Estate Affidavit
Using a small estate affidavit has its benefits and drawbacks, which typically depend on your specific situation. For example, the affidavit only works for small estates with a value of less than $50,000 but it could save you a lot of time if the estate you’re inheriting is small. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of using a small estate affidavit.
Affidavits for the collection of personal property offer notable benefits, including:
- It takes less time compared to formal probate.
- Costs are much lower than probate.
- A small estate affidavit can be used when a person dies without a will.
Some limits and drawbacks include:
- Estates must be smaller than $50,000.
- The person using the affidavit has to notify other heirs and successors in order to complete a valid affidavit.
The Bottom Line
In Virginia, a small estate affidavit can save time and money when transferring assets from the estate of someone who died. The affidavits can only be used when the estate is valued at less than $50,000 and at least 60 days have passed since the death. Heirs can gain control of assets such as bank accounts and stocks by presenting a properly completed small estate affidavit to a financial institution or another asset holder. Most people can complete one of these affidavits without an attorney and get rapid access to assets in a small estate.
Tips for Estate Planning
- Estate planning can be hard, especially if you don’t have any professional help to help you navigate the process. A financial advisor can help you with estate planning and other financial matters. Finding a qualified financial advisor who can help doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- You can learn more about how Virginia handles estates in SmartAsset’s comprehensive guide to inheritance in Virginia.
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