West Virginia Code
A person appointed by a will executor thereof shall not have the powers of executor until he or she qualifies as such by taking an oath and giving bond, unless not required to post bond by section eight of this article, before the county commission in which the will, or an authenticated copy thereof, is admitted to record, or before the clerk thereof in vacation, except that he or she may provide for the burial of the testator, pay reasonable funeral expenses and preserve the estate from waste.
If there be no executor appointed by the will, or if all the executors therein named refuse the executorship, or fail when required to give such bond, which shall amount to such refusal, or have died, such court, or clerk thereof during the recess of the regular sessions of such court, may grant administration, with the will annexed, to the person who would have been entitled to administration if there had been no will, and he shall take such oath and give such bond.
The oath of an executor, or of an administrator with the will annexed, shall be that the writing admitted to record contains the true last will and testament of the deceased, as far as he knows or believes, and that he will faithfully perform the duties of his office to the best of his skill and judgment.
When a person dies intestate the jurisdiction to hear and determine the right of administration of his estate shall be in the county court, or clerk thereof during the recess of the regular sessions of such court, which would have jurisdiction as to the probate of his will, if there were one. Administration shall be granted to the distributees who apply therefor, preferring first the husband or wife, and then such of the others entitled to distribution as such court or clerk shall see fit. If no distributee apply for administration within thirty days from the death of the intestate, such court or clerk may grant administration to one or more of his creditors, or to any other person.
The county court, or clerk thereof during the recess of the regular sessions of such court, may appoint a curator of the estate of a decedent, during a contest about his will, or during the infancy or in the absence of an executor, or until administration of the estate be granted, taking from him a bond in a reasonable penalty. The curator shall take care that the estate is not wasted before the qualification of an executor or administrator, or before such estate shall lawfully come into possession of such executor or administrator. He may demand, sue for, recover, and receive all debts due to the decedent, and all his other personal estate, and when there is a will may, or if a will be in contest shall, with respect to any real estate whereof the decedent or testator may have died seized or possessed, exercise such rights as the executor or administrator with the will annexed could exercise, including the collection of any rents and profits of such real estate and the leasing of the same for a term not exceeding the period of the curator’s incumbency. Upon the qualification of an executor or administrator, such curator shall account with the executor or administrator for, and pay over to him such estate as came into such curator’s hands or for which he is liable.
At the time of the grant of administration upon the estate of any intestate, the person to whom it is granted shall, in the county commission or before the clerk granting it, give bond, unless not required to post bond by section eight of this article, and take an oath that the deceased has left no will so far as he or she knows, and that he or she will faithfully perform the duties of the office to the best of his or her judgment. If a will of the deceased be afterwards admitted to record, or if, after administration is granted to a creditor or other person than a distributee, any distributee who shall not have before refused shall apply for administration, there may be a grant of probate or administration, after reasonable notice to such creditor or other person theretofore appointed, in like manner as if the former grant had not been made, and such former grant shall thereupon cease.
(a) Every bond required to be given by an executor or administrator shall be in a penalty equal, at the least, to the full value of the personal estate of the deceased to be administered; and where there is a will which authorizes the executor or administrator to sell real estate, or receive the rents and profits thereof, the bond shall be in a penalty equal, at the least, to the full value both of such personal estate and of such real estate, or of such personal estate and of such rents and profits, as the case may be.
(b) If on the filing of the appraisement of the estate it shall appear that the penalty of the bond does not comply as to amount with the foregoing requirements, the county commission in which, or the clerk before whom, such bond was given, shall immediately notify such executor or administrator of such fact and require of him or her a new or additional bond, and the failure of such executor or administrator to give the same within a reasonable time shall be sufficient cause for his or her removal.
(a) Subject to the provisions of section three, article five of this chapter governing the appointment of a nonresident of this state as an executor, where the will directs that an executor shall not give bond, it shall not be required of him or her, unless at the time the will is admitted to probate or at any time subsequently, on the application of any person interested, and after a hearing, it is required by the county commission that bond ought to be given.
(b) No surety shall be required on the bond of the executor if he or she is also the sole beneficiary of the decedent, unless the will directs otherwise, and no surety shall be required on the bond of the administrator if he or she is the sole distributee of the decedent, unless at the time the will is admitted to probate or the administrator is appointed or at any time thereafter, on the application of any person interested, and after a hearing, it is required by the county commission that surety ought to be given.
(c) In all such cases where no surety is required of the executor or administrator, the executor or administrator shall nevertheless be liable upon his or her bond upon his or her own personal recognizance in the event of default, failure or misadministration by the executor or administrator.
In any estate in which there is a will, on the death, resignation or removal of the sole surviving executor of any such will or of an administrator with the will annexed, administration of the estate of the testator, not already administered, may be granted with the will annexed; and in any estate in which there is no will, on the death, resignation or removal of the administrator of such estate, administration of the estate, not already administered, may be granted, to such person as the court shall find it proper to appoint; and no executor or administrator of an executor or administrator shall have authority as such to administer the estate of the first testator or the first intestate.
Where an unmarried woman who is personal representative, either alone or jointly with another, shall marry, her husband shall not be a personal representative in her right, and such marriage shall not operate as an extinguishment of her authority.
If at any time two months elapse without there being an executor or administrator of the estate of a decedent (except during a contest about the decedent’s will, or during the infancy or absence of the executor), the court or clerk before whom the will was admitted to probate, or having jurisdiction to grant administration, shall on motion of any person order the sheriff of the county to take into his or her possession the estate of such decedent and administer the same; whereupon such sheriff, without taking any other oath of office, or giving any other bond or security than he or she may have before taken or given, shall be the administrator or administrator de bonis non of the decedent, with his or her will annexed if there be a will, and shall be entitled to all the rights and bound to perform all the duties of the administrator. For his or her services as administrator of an estate, the sheriff shall receive from the estate a fee of five percent of the estate subject to administration, which fee shall be deposited to the treasury of the county. Every sheriff shall, in the month of January in each year, make a written report to the county commission of his or her county, and if the court is not in session, then he or she shall file the report with the clerk of the court, of the receipts and disbursements of each estate so committed to him or her, and at the end of his or her term of office make a complete report and settlement of each estate so committed to him or her, and shall turn over to his or her successor in office all moneys or property in his or her hands remaining unadministered. The court or clerk may, however, at any time afterward revoke such order and allow any other person to qualify as the executor or administrator; and the court, or the clerk thereof, shall, at the expiration of the term of office of any sheriff, commit to his or her successor in office any and all estates which may appear, by the final report above required to be made by the sheriff at the end of his or her term, not to have been fully administered. Every sheriff to whom any estate shall have been committed, as aforesaid, who shall fail to render any report as required herein, or who shall fail to make such settlement within two months after the end of his or her term of office shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than fifty nor more than $500.
A copy of the order whereby certificate is granted to any personal representative for obtaining probate or letters of administration, shall be as effectual as the probate or letters made out in due form. Nevertheless, the clerk of the court, in which such order is made, shall, when required by any personal representative, make out such probate or letters in due form.
At the time of the qualification of an executor or administrator, the court or clerk before whom he qualifies shall require such executor or administrator to file his own affidavit, or the affidavit of some credible person, showing the names and, as far as possible, the addresses of the persons who would take any part of the estate of the decedent as heirs or distributees in cases of the intestacy of the decedent and of the persons who are devisees and legatees under the will, if any, of the decedent, and their relationship to decedent, and the clerk of the court shall record such affidavit in the fiduciary record, which affidavit and the record thereof shall be prima facie evidence of what is contained therein. The personal representative shall not receive any compensation for his services until such names and addresses be furnished by affidavit as aforesaid, unless he shows by affidavit that such heirs, distributees, devisees and legatees and their addresses are unknown to him and that after diligent inquiry he has been unable to ascertain their names and addresses.
Acts, 2002 Reg. Sess., Ch. 142.
(a) The personal representative of an estate of a deceased person shall appraise the deceased's real estate and personal probate property, or any real estate or personal probate property in which the deceased person had an interest at the time of his or her death, as provided in this section.
(b) After having taken the appropriate oath, the personal representative shall, on the appraisement form prescribed by the Tax Commissioner, list the following items owned by the decedent or in which the decedent had an interest and the fair market value of the items at the date of the decedent's death:
(1) All probate and nonprobate real estate including, but not limited to, real estate owned by the decedent, as a joint tenant with right of survivorship with one or more parties, as a life estate, subject to a power of appointment of the decedent, or in which any beneficial interest passes by trust or otherwise to another person by reason of the death of the decedent; and
(2) All probate personal property, whether tangible or intangible, including, but not limited to, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, mortgages, notes, cash, life insurance payable to the executor or administrator of the decedent's estate and all other items of probate personal property.
(c) Any real estate or interest in real estate so appraised must be identified with particularity and description. The personal representative shall identify the source of title in the decedent and the location of the realty for purposes of real property ad valorem taxation.
(d) For purposes of this section, the term "probate personal property" means all personal property which passes by or under the decedent's will or by the laws of intestate descent and distribution or is otherwise subject to administration in a decedent's estate under common law.
(e) The personal representative shall complete, under oath, a questionnaire included in the appraisement form designed by the Tax Commissioner for the purpose of reporting whether the decedent owned or had an interest in any nonprobate personal property: Provided, That the Tax Commissioner shall design a questionnaire that is as much as possible phrased in understandable English.
(f) The appraisement form shall be executed and signed by the personal representative. The original appraisement form and two of its copies, together with the completed and notarized nonprobate inventory form required by section seven, article eleven, chapter eleven of this code, shall be returned to the clerk of the county commission by whom the personal representative was appointed or to the fiduciary supervisor within ninety days of the date of qualification of the personal representative. The clerk or supervisor shall inspect the appraisement form to determine whether it is in proper form. If the appraisement form is returned to a fiduciary supervisor, within ten days after being received and approved, the supervisor shall deliver the documents to the clerk of the county commission. Upon receipt of the appraisement form, the clerk of the county commission shall record it with the certificate of approval of the supervisor. The date of return of an appraisement form must be entered by the clerk of the county commission in his or her record of fiduciaries. The nonprobate inventory form shall be maintained and preserved by the clerk of the county commission or the fiduciary supervisor, but shall not be recorded in the records of the clerk of the county commission. The nonprobate inventory form is confidential tax return information subject to the provisions of section five-d, article ten, chapter eleven of this code and may not be disclosed by the clerk of the county commission and his or her officers and employees or former officers and employees. Nothing in this section may be construed to hinder, abrogate or prevent disclosure of information as authorized in section thirty-five, article eleven, chapter eleven of this code.
(g) An executed and signed appraisement form is prima facie evidence:
(1) Of the value of the property listed;
(2) That the property is subject to administration; and
(3) That the property was received by the personal representative.
(h) Any personal representative who refuses or declines, without reasonable cause, to comply with the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $500.
(i) Every personal representative has authority to retain the services of an expert as may be appropriate to assist and advise him or her concerning his or her duties in appraising any asset or property pursuant to the provisions of this section. An expert so retained shall be compensated a reasonable sum by the personal representative from the assets of the estate. The compensation and its reasonableness is subject to review and approval by the county commission, upon recommendation of the fiduciary supervisor.
(j) Except as specifically provided in subdivision (1), subsection (b) of this section and in section seven, article eleven, chapter eleven of this code, the personal representative is not required to list and appraise nonprobate real estate or nonprobate personal property of the decedent on the forms required in this section or section seven, article eleven, chapter eleven of this code.
(a) Within thirty days of the filing of the appraisement of any estate or within one hundred twenty days of the date of qualification of the personal representative if an appraisement is not filed as required in section fourteen of this article, the clerk of the county commission shall publish, once a week for two successive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation within the county of the administration of the estate, a notice, which is to include:
(1) The name of the decedent;
(2) The name and address of the county commission before whom the proceedings are pending;
(3) The name and address of the personal representative;
(4) The name and address of any attorney representing the personal representative;
(5) The name and address of the fiduciary commissioner, if any;
(6) The date of first publication;
(7) A statement that claims against the estate must be filed within sixty days of the date of first publication in accordance with article two or article three-a of this chapter;
(8) A statement that any person seeking to impeach or establish a will must make a complaint in accordance with section eleven, twelve or thirteen, article five, chapter forty-one of this code;
(9) A statement that an interested person objecting to the qualifications of the personal representative or the venue or jurisdiction of the court must be filed with the county commission within sixty days after the date of first publication or thirty days of service of the notice, whichever is later; and
(10) If the appraisement of the assets of the estate shows the value to be $200,000 or less, exclusive of real estate specifically devised and nonprobate assets, or, if it appears to the clerk that there is only one beneficiary of the probate estate and that the beneficiary is competent at law, a statement substantially as follows: “Settlement of the estate of the following named decedents will proceed without reference to a fiduciary commissioner unless within sixty days from the first publication of this notice a reference is requested by a party in interest or an unpaid creditor files a claim and good cause is shown to support reference to a fiduciary commissioner”. If a party in interest requests the fiduciary commissioner to conclude the administration of the estate or an unpaid creditor files a claim, no further notice to creditors shall be published in the newspaper, and the personal representative shall be required to pay no further fees, except to the fiduciary commissioner for conducting any hearings, or performing any other duty as a fiduciary commissioner. The time period for filing claims against the estate shall expire upon the time period set out in the notice to creditors published by the clerk of the county commission as required in this subsection (a). If an unpaid creditor files a claim, the fiduciary commissioner shall conduct a hearing on the claim filed by the creditor, otherwise, the fiduciary commissioner shall conclude the administration of the estate as requested by the interested party.
(11) This notice shall be published as a Class II legal advertisement in compliance with the provisions of article three, chapter fifty-nine of this code. The publication of such notice shall be equivalent to personal service on creditors, distributees and legatees.
(b) If no appraisement is filed within the time period established pursuant to section fourteen of this article, the county clerk shall send a notice to the personal representative by first class mail, postage prepaid, indicating that the appraisement has not been filed.
(c) The personal representative shall promptly make a diligent search to determine the names and addresses of creditors of the decedent who are reasonably ascertainable.
(d) The personal representative shall, within sixty days after the date of first publication, serve a copy of the notice, published pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, by first class mail, postage prepaid or by personal service on the following persons:
(1) If the personal representative is not the decedent’s surviving spouse and not the sole beneficiary or sole heir, the decedent’s surviving spouse, if any;
(2) If there is a will and the personal representative is not the sole beneficiary, any beneficiaries;
(3) If there is not a will and the personal representative is not the sole heir, any heirs;
(4) The trustee of any trust in which the decedent was a grantor, if any; and
(5) All creditors identified under subsection (c) of this section, other than a creditor who filed a claim as provided in article two of this chapter or a creditor whose claim has been paid in full.
(e) Any person interested in the estate who objects to the qualifications of the personal representative or the venue or jurisdiction of the court, shall file notice of an objection with the county commission within sixty days after the date of the first publication as required in subsection (a) of this section or within thirty days after service of the notice as required by subsection (d) of this section, whichever is later. If an objection is not timely filed, the objection is forever barred.
(f) A personal representative acting in good faith is not personally liable for serving notice under this section, notwithstanding a determination that notice was not required by this section. A personal representative acting in good faith who fails to serve the notice required by this section is not personally liable. The service of the notice in accordance with this subsection may not be construed to admit the validity or enforceability of a claim.
(g) The clerk of the county commission shall collect a fee of $20 for the publication of the notice required in this section.
(h) For purposes of this section, the term “beneficiary” means a person designated in a will to receive real or personal property.
It shall be the duty of every personal representative to administer well and truly the whole personal estate of his decedent. The appointment of a debtor as executor shall not extinguish the debt.
When the powers of a personal representative have ceased and an administrator de bonis non of the decedent’s estate has been appointed and qualified, it shall be lawful for the personal representative whose powers have ceased, or his personal representative if he shall have died, to pay and deliver to such administrator de bonis non, or for him to demand, receive, and recover the assets of his decedent, whether converted or not, for which such former personal representative is responsible: Provided, however, That the administrator de bonis non shall have given, or shall give, a bond sufficient to cover the additional assets, so to be paid or delivered to him or so to be demanded and received by him The administrator de bonis non shall administer the same as assets received in due course of administration, and his receipt therefor shall be a voucher in the settlement of the accounts of the former personal representative, and shall exempt such former personal representative from all liability for any of such assets paid over and delivered to such administrator de bonis non. But this section shall not be construed as exempting such former personal representative and his sureties from liability for any breach of duty, with respect to such assets, committed by him before they were paid over and delivered by him as aforesaid.
The provisions and fuel (or so much thereof as may be necessary) which, at the death of any person, shall have been laid in for consumption in his family, shall remain for the use of such family, if the same be desired by any member of it, without account thereof being made. Any livestock necessary for the food of the family may be killed for that use before the sale or distribution of the estate.
Unless it be necessary for the payment of funeral expenses, charges of administration or debts, the personal representative shall not sell estate which the will directs not to be sold.
Of the goods not mentioned in the preceding section, other than such as are exempt by any provision of law, the personal representative shall, as soon as convenient, sell at public auction such as are likely to be impaired in value by keeping, giving a reasonable credit (except for small sums), and taking bond with good security.
If the goods so sold be not sufficient to pay the funeral expenses, charges of administration, debts and legacies, the personal representative shall sell so much of the other goods and chattels as may be necessary to pay the same, having regard to the privilege of specific legacies.
Any estate for the life of another shall go to the personal representative of the party entitled to the estate, and be assets in his hands, and be applied and distributed as the personal estate of such party.
A personal representative may sue or be sued upon any judgment for or against, or any contract of or with, his decedent.
A civil action may be maintained by or against a personal representative for the taking or carrying away of any goods, or for the waste or destruction of, or damage to, any estate of or by his decedent.
A suit may be maintained against the personal representative of an executor in his own wrong, or the personal representative of a rightful executor or administrator by whom any waste may have been committed.
Where a suit is pending or a judgment or decree has been rendered in this state in favor of a personal representative, upon a contract made or for a cause of action which accrued in the lifetime of the decedent, the administrator de bonis non of such decedent may sue forth a scire facias to have execution upon such judgment or decree, or to revive and prosecute to judgment or decree the suit so pending, if the personal representative who brought it could have maintained the same.
Where an execution on a judgment or decree against a personal representative is returned without being satisfied, there may be forthwith brought and prosecuted an action against the surety in any bond given by such personal representative for the faithful discharge of his or her duties.
No personal representative or any surety of his shall be chargeable beyond the assets of the decedent by reason of any omission or mistake in pleading or false pleading of such representative. And in the action allowed by the preceding section the defendants may plead any pleas and offer any evidence which would be admissible in an action against a personal representative suggesting a devastavit.
(a) When the State of West Virginia, any of its political subdivisions, the United States or any employer owes wages, salary, pension payments or money allowed for burial expenses to a decedent, upon whose estate there has been no qualification, and the amount owed does not exceed $5,000, the State of West Virginia, any of its political subdivisions, the United States or the decedent's employer, after one hundred and twenty days from the death of the decedent, may pay the amount owed to the decedent’s surviving spouse, if any; and if no spouse survived the decedent, then to the distributees of the decedent under the laws of the State of West Virginia.
(b) When the state Treasurer holds property in accordance with article eight, chapter thirty-six of this code on behalf of a decedent upon whose estate there has been no qualification, and the amount of the property is $5,000 or less, the Treasurer may remit the property to the surviving spouse of the decedent, if any; and if no spouse survives the decedent, then to the distributees of the decedent under the laws of the State of West Virginia. When the state Treasurer holds property in accordance with article eight, chapter thirty-six of this code on behalf of a decedent whose estate is closed or has no present qualification and a valid will or an affidavit naming the decedent’s distributees has been filed with the appropriate probate jurisdiction, the Treasurer may remit the property to the distributees as reflected in the will, or in the absence of a will, as established by the affidavit, in accordance with the laws of descent and distribution.
(c) Payment in accordance with this section is in full discharge and acquittance to all persons whomsoever on account of the property.
(a) A personal representative, trustee, administrator or executor of a decedent or a decedent's estate is hereby granted the authority to:
(1) Sell a conservation or preservation easement created prior to the decedent's death under article twelve, chapter eight-a of this code or article twelve, chapter twenty of this code;
(2) Donate a conservation or preservation easement created prior to the decedent's death under article twelve, chapter eight-a of this code or article twelve, chapter twenty of this code;
(3) Amend a conservation or preservation easement created prior to the decedent's death under article twelve, chapter eight-a of this code or article twelve, chapter twenty of this code and recorded on the decedent's real property in order to obtain the benefit of the estate tax exclusion allowed under §2031(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended;
(4) Execute a deed of conservation or preservation easement and related documents when decedent's application to establish and convey an easement was approved by a holder during the nine-month period preceding the date of decedent's death, but the deed of conservation or preservation easement and related documents were not signed by the decedent before his or her death: Provided, That before executing these documents, the personal representative, trustee or executor complies with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section; or
(5) Execute a deed of conservation or preservation easement and related documents when decedent's application to establish and convey an easement was submitted to a holder before decedent's death but is approved by a holder after the decedent's death: Provided, That before executing these documents, the personal representative, trustee, administrator or executor complies with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section.
(b) The personal representative, trustee, administrator or executor shall ensure that the sale, donation, amendment or transfer of a conservation or preservation easement complies with the following:
(1) The proposed sale, donation, transfer or amendment satisfies the requirements set forth in the provisions of article twelve, chapter eight-a of this code or article twelve, chapter twenty of this code, as applicable to the particular easement;
(2) The proposed sale, donation, transfer or amendment is to a qualified conservation organization or holder and the organization or holder agrees to accept the conservation or preservation easement; and
(3) The sale, donation, transfer or amendment meets one of the following conditions:
(A) All heirs, beneficiaries and devisees with interests in the real estate affected provide written consent; or
(B) The will or other testamentary instrument directs the personal representative, trustee or executor to sell or donate the conservation or preservation easement; or
(C) At the time of the decedent's death, the decedent had a pending application for a sale or donation of a conservation or preservation easement and such conservation or preservation easement was in process of settlement.
The clerk of the county commission may require a certified copy of a decedents death certificate or other proof of death and residence prior to fulfilling the clerk’s responsibilities under this chapter.