Probate question in state of Virginia

3 Replies

Not sure if probate procedures are the same for every state, but I could use some advice for the state of Virginia from any probate lawyers out there - or anyone w experience in probate in VA.

Background:

I found an abandoned property I want to buy in a small town in SW Virginia, but the situation seems to be a tangled mess.  I found out that the owner died a few years ago, but I tracked down her daughter and she is open to selling it to me.  There are also 2 brothers, one who she is close to, and also seems to be on board with this.  The other one they are both estranged from (not sure how that plays into it).  

The mother died without a will and the daughter had so many other issues at the time that she just couldn't deal with it, she is relatively young and drugs were involved w her mother's death, so there are a lot of issues here.  After her mother died, she tried to go to the local courthouse to see what to do about the probate process, but couldn't get anywhere.  I'm getting all this second-hand now, but she says she was told that she needed to pay $65 to start the process, and she had 6 months to do it, but she didn't have the money, so she didn't do anything.  She says there's a local lawyer there who now has all the files, but when she's asked for them, nothing has ever been produced.  Then life got in the way and she just gave up.  

Now that I've come on the scene, I told her that I would try to help her untangle it towards our mutual goal of her getting some closure w the property, and me buying it from her.  So I called the attorney who has the files to see if he has been given executor status and was told:

1. it's an old case

2. he does not have the authority to sell the property

Then I called the courthouse to see who is the administrator over the estate, and was told that they have no record of the mother's death!  Also, I'm pretty sure from the online records that the taxes are up to date, but I'm not sure who is paying them, since it's not the daughter.  The probate office said the daughter needs to make an appt with the deputy clerk for probate, and bring the mother's death certificate.  The daughter does have her mother's death certificate, so she is working on trying to set up an appt with the probate office now.

my questions:  

Is there a statute of limitations on opening probate?  (it's been about 2 years since she died).  It seems like after 6 months they turned everything over to a lawyer and there it's sat in his files all this time.  

If there is a limit on time to open probate, but they don't even have a record of the mother's death, then does the clock start ticking when the death certificate is produced?

If the daughter is talking to the right people at the courthouse, is that enough, or does she need to have an attorney help her through this process?

I've told her I will help her with any legal fees as long as I can have assurance that she will sell the property to me once everything is cleared up.  But I'm not sure at what point that could happen, and I don't want to start paying lawyers and then have it blow up and me not get the property in the end, so how can I protect myself while still helping her?

I know probate situations can be messy, thanks for any feedback/advice any lawyers out there can give, or anyone else familiar with the process in Virginia.

Thanks @Vick Galu .  No, I've not yet checked w the assessor's office to see who's paying it.  Just had so many other things I was trying to find out I'd not gotten to that.  But if that's public record too, and they are obliged to tell me, then I certainly will ask!  Thanks for reminding me that I can do that.