Understanding Probate

The very thought of Probate can be overwhelming to most people. At Snodgrass Funeral Home we want to provide you with as much information as possible to assist you in the Probate process. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this process. Although a probate attorney is not required for the probate process in the settlement of most Estates, there are times in which a probate attorney is needed and/or required. In the event a probate attorney is needed, it is always wise to comparatively shop for an attorney that you can afford, trust, and feel comfortable with.

Probate is a legal process by which the Estate of the deceased is transferred or distributed to the beneficiaries, heirs and/or creditors. Probate may take as little as 6 months to a year or more depending on the Estate. Whether a Will is left or not by the decedent, the Estate must go through Probate. There are times that Probate may not be a necessary action. This would have to be determined by the local Fiduciary Supervisor's Office in the county of which the deceased resided and/or owned property. Generally speaking, the steps in a "normal uncontested probate" are as follows:

  1. Death of the decedent
  2. The will is delivered to the executor or Court Clerk
  3. A petition is filed for the Probate of Will or Letters of Administration
  4. A hearing is held on the petition
  5. Letters of Administration are issued by the Court
  6. Notice to creditors is given
  7. Inventory and appraisement of the estate is made by an independent probate appraiser
  8. File Federal Estate Tax Return. Return states "No Tax Due" or specifies an amount due
  9. Final decree of distribution
  10. Discharge of personal representative

When a Will is left and a personal representative is named by the deceased the Probate Court will appoint this person named to serve as the Fiduciary over the Estate. The personal representative is called the Executor or Executrix. The Executor is responsible to see that the terms and wishes of the deceased are carried out to the final settlement of the Estate. The term "Testate" refers to a person who died with a Will.

If the Will states that the Executor may serve "without bond" and the Will is accepted by the Probate Court as a legal document then the Executor will not need a Bondsman. However if the Will does not list the Executor to serve "without bond" the Probate Court may require a Bondsman to be present. A Bondsman is the person or company which will provide surety in the form or Real Estate, Cash or other valid Asset to the Probate Court. Depending on the value of the Estate, a Corporate Bondsman may be necessary.

If a Will is not left by the deceased, the Probate Court will appoint an Administrator/Administratrix to oversee the Estate. Usually this person is the closest relative of the deceased or may be the person the majority of the heirs requested. The heirs have 30 days to make their request known to the Probate Court of the designated Administrator. On the 31st date after death, anyone can ask to become the Administrator or the Estate without the majority of the heirs acknowledgement. The Administrator serves in the same capacity as the Executor in the Probate process. In the absence of a Will, a Bondsman will be required. Depending on the value of the Estate, a Corporate Bondsman may be necessary. The term "Intestate" refers to a person who died and did not leave a Will.

For additional information you may contact the Office of the Fiduciary in your local area. For Kanawha and Putnam Counties we have listed the contact information for your convenience below.

When you begin the Probate process, you may find that you will need a bondsman to provide a surety on your behalf. Click here for a list of bondsmen in the local area that may be able to assist you in this matter.

Fiduciary Supervisor's Office of Kanawha County
Charleston, West Virginia
ph: (304) 357-0125
fax: (304) 357-0426
Office hours:
Mon/Tue/Wed/Fri: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Thurs: 8:00am - 7:00pm
Fiduciary Supervisor's Office of Putnam County
Winfield, West Virginia
ph: (304) 586-0239
fax: (304) 586-0200
Office hours:
Mon - Fri: 8:00am - 4:00pm