Virginia offers probate shortcuts for "small estates." This makes it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using these procedures -- saving time, money, and hassle.
Virginia has two procedures that allow inheritors to skip probate altogether; one process is for real estate, and the other for other (personal) property. When the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount, all an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Virginia if:
1. The value of the entire personal probate estate is $50,000 or less. The will, if any, must be filed with probate court. There is a 60-day waiting period. Va. Code Ann. § 64.2-601.
2. For real estate, if there’s no will, the heirs or personal representative can record an affidavit setting out the names of all heirs; the court clerk will send an abstract of the affidavit to the revenue commissioner, and then the real estate can be transferred. The affidavit form is available from the court. Va. Code Ann. § 64.2-510
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).