Overview of the Estate Administration Process
The Estate of a deceased person is administered in a three-step process, as follows:
STEP 1: The Appointment
Begin by filling out either the “Probate With Original Will” or “Probate Without Will” check list following the instructions on the form. Once the applicable form is filled out and all of the necessary information is provided, the personal representative must come in person to the Fiduciary Supervisor office to be appointed over the decedent’s Estate, along with a bondsperson if bond is required.
The Appointment is for a personal representative to serve as the Fiduciary over the Estate. The Fiduciary is called an Executor/Executrix if named as such in the Last Will and Testament of the decedent. The Fiduciary is called an Administrator/Administratrix if there is no Will or if the Will does not name a Fiduciary. The Appointment of the Fiduciary will normally be made within thirty (30) days from the date of death. Being appointed as Fiduciary does not entitle inheritance unless listed as a beneficiary in the Will or listed as an heir on the Application of Fiduciary.
This first step takes about an hour, at least, to complete (this may or may not include your wait time). We ask that when coming for the Appointment, please plan to arrive by 3:30 pm as we cannot file any documents past 4:30 pm. We do not close during lunch, however, we do rotate lunches and are, therefore, short-staffed during the hours of 12pm-2pm. Please plan accordingly, taking into account this information.
STEP 2: The Appraisement
The Appraisement is the form created by the State Tax Department to gather information about all of the assets of deceased persons. The Fiduciary must return the Appraisement within 90 days after the date of Appointment. Failure to comply with the requirement to return the Appraisement by the due date constitutes a $10.00 late fee, and you could be subject to a misdemeanor which may result in prosecution and a fine up to $500.00.
The Appraisement form is standard for the entire State of West Virginia and requires a complete listing of all assets held in the decedent’s name alone, held jointly with any other living person, or payable on death to another living person. Once the Appraisement is received, it will be recorded in the County Clerk’s Office and the Estate will be published in the Register-Herald newspaper. The publication will name the decedent, the Fiduciary, and the address of the Fiduciary. The publication of the Appraisement is to give notice to creditors that the sixty (60) day period for filing claims against the estate has begun.
The Fiduciary should wait until the sixty (60) day claim period is over to see if there is enough money in the Estate to pay for all the claims. If there is no money in the Estate to cover the claims, the
Fiduciary will be sent a letter with instructions on how to proceed. If there are claims filed and there is money in the Estate to pay those claims, then the Fiduciary will pay those claims and have the creditor file in our office a notarized Release, which will state that the claim has been paid and the claim is released. (This Release form is available in our office if the creditor does not have a form of their own.) The Office of the Fiduciary Supervisor must have the original Release form in order to proceed with the 3rd step of probate (make sure the Notary places his/her seal on the form.)
If the Fiduciary pays debt out of the order designated by WV Code §44-3A-26, then the Fiduciary can be held personally liable for any and all debt that comes in, regardless of there being money in the Estate or not. Anything that was in the decedent’s name alone is subject to be sold for debt before any distribution can be made.
STEP 3: The Settlement
At the end of the sixty (60) day claim filing period, if there are no outstanding claims, an Affidavit and Waiver of Final Settlement will be mailed to the Fiduciary to be signed by the Fiduciary and by all heirs/beneficiaries in the presence of a Notary (make sure the Notary places his/her seal by each signature.) By the heirs/beneficiaries signing, they are acknowledging that the Fiduciary has handled the Estate properly and it waives their right to request an accounting of the Estate.
If there are outstanding claims, or if the heirs/beneficiaries do not agree on the distribution proposed by the Fiduciary, then the Fiduciary must complete and file a Report of Receipts, Disbursements and Distributions form, which gives an accounting of the Estate. Once the Office of the Fiduciary Supervisor receives the settlement Report and recording fees, it will be recorded at the County Clerk’s Office and the names of all Estates ready to be closed will be published in the Register-Herald newspaper on the first Monday of the succeeding month. A copy of the settlement Report will also be mailed to each heir/beneficiary and any creditor with an outstanding claim against the Estate. If there are no written objections filed in the Office of the Fiduciary Commissioner within ten (10) days from the date of publication/mailing, all Estates advertised will close by order of the Raleigh County Commission at the next scheduled meeting date following the end of the ten (10) day period.
The distribution of assets to the heirs/beneficiaries should take place after the filing of the Affidavit and Waiver of Final Settlement in our office, but before the date that the County Commission signs the order to close the Estate. The distribution according to the Report of Receipts, Disbursements and Distributions should be made after the ten (10) day period to object to the Report has passed, but before the date that the County Commission signs the order to close the Estate. The order signed by the County Commission terminates the powers and appointment of the Fiduciary and closes the Estate. These forms are to be completed and filed as soon as possible to avoid any future fines or misdemeanor charges.
There are fees for each step of the probate process that must be paid to our office, either by cash, check or money order, payable to the Raleigh County Clerk.
Effective July 5, 2017, the following fees will apply to the probate of estates through the Raleigh County Office of the Fiduciary Supervisor.
Fees due at time of appointment:
Fiduciary Fee: (Based on everything that the decedent’s name was on at the time of death)
Total assets of $0.00 – $10,000 – Fee is $25.00
Total assets of $10,001 – $50,000 – Fee is $100.00
Total assets of $50,001 and over – Fee is $175.00
WV State Tax Dept. Fee: $5.00
Letters of Administration: $2.50 per Letter of Administration issued
Mailings Fee: $1.00 per heir/beneficiary
Appraisement Late Filing Fee: $10.00
Publication Fee: $20.00
Settlement Publication Fee: $10.00