During probate, some claims take priority. For example, Virginia Code contains provisions to give surviving spouse and dependent children some relief after the death of a spouse/parent. The amounts allowed for exempt property and family allowance may make a big difference at a bad time.
When an estate goes through probate, the estate’s personal representative is required to gather and manage assets, pay valid claims, and make distributions to heirs. Meanwhile, life goes on for the surviving family of the decedent, and life can be expensive.
As the estate settles, the exempt property section of the Code of Virginia becomes very important. The surviving spouse of a person domiciled in Virginia receives up to $20,000 in personal property, household furnishings and furniture, appliances, and automobiles from the estate. If there’s no spouse, but there are minor children, the children take the exempt property in equal shares. For estates where the exempt property isn’t worth $20,000, the spouse and/or minor children can take other assets to get to the exemption amount.
The right to exempt property trumps all other claims except the family allowance, which we’ll talk about next. So, the exempt property is not used to pay any other claims against the estate.
Also, the exempt property that’s given to the surviving spouse and/or minor children of the decedent does not replace other benefits. For example, the survivors might be entitled to shares of the estate due to the terms of the Will, through intestate succession, or by elective share.
In addition to the exempt property, surviving spouses and minor children are entitled to a reasonable allowance from the estate. Called the family allowance, this money is intended to use for maintenance while the estate passes through probate.
The survivors can be paid a lump sum of up to $24,000. Alternatively, they can receive monthly installments of up to $2,000 for up to a year. If the minor children are being cared for by someone other than the surviving spouse, that caregiver can receive their share to use for their needs.
Like the exempt property, the family allowance is paid in addition to other benefits received by the survivors. This includes distributions from the Will, payments based on intestate succession, or elective shares.
The family allowance has higher priority than any other claim.
When someone eligible for family allowance dies before receiving the full benefit, their right to the allowance terminates.
Are You Concerned About Surviving During Probate?
The attorneys at Dillon Law Group, PLC can help you get through probate and receive every benefit possible under law. Please contact us at 757-962-4796 to set up an appointment or use the Contact Form on our website, https://www.dillonlawgrp.com/. We have offices in Virginia Beach and Newport News.