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Vermont Probate Division

Estates and Wills


Orleans Superior Court

As of May 21, 2013, the old estate forms have been replaced by new forms developed by the Probate Oversight Committee and approved by the Administrative Judge.  For a guide to the new forms that will help you convert the old form numbers to the new form numbers and provide an explanation of the major changes, click here.
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Frequently Asked Questions
expand   As Executor or Administrator what are my duties?
expand   Do I need a lawyer to open an estate?
While it is advisable and cost-effective to have a lawyer in certain estates, it is not required that you have a lawyer to open an estate. Any interested person may file a petition with the Probate Court to open the estate. However, if you are unsure of your duties or your rights, it is best to obtain legal counsel to avoid mistakes during the probate process or to assure that your rights are protected.
 
   
 
expand   How do I go about objecting to a will?
expand   How do I make a claim against an estate?
A claim against an estate must be filed with the Probate Court in which the estate is pending and with the Executor or Administrator. There may be a time limitation, after which your claim will not be honored, so it is important to file your claim as soon as possible to avoid being barred by a time limit. You may seek a written negotiated settlement of the claim with the Executor or Administrator. There are special rules concerning evidence of such claims, so you should prepare documentation of the claim. Probate Court Form 34 may be used to make your claim.
 
   
 
expand   How much does it cost to probate an estate?
expand   I am a fiduciary – how do I go about becoming bonded?
The Court will advise you what kind of bond is required. Sometimes the Court waives a surety. In this case, you simply read and sign the bond before a witness and return it. If a personal surety is required, often you need a financially responsible person to join with you in the obligation of the bond. If you violate your duties and cause a loss, both you and the surety are potentially liable on the bond. If a commercial surety is required, then you should speak with insurance companies to locate an insurer who writes fiduciary bonds. There will be a bonding fee for this sort of surety depending upon the amount of the bond.
 
   
 
expand   I have a very small estate – does it need to be probated?
expand   I have been named as executor in a will but do not want to take on the job what do I do?
The Court will not force you to be executor if you do not want to. In fact, if you are unsure of you ability to handle the duties or lack the time needed, it may be best for you to refuse the appointment. Executors who cannot give an adequate amount of time and effort to an estate can damage the estate and open themselves up for liability. To refuse the appointment of executor, you simply have to inform the Court in writing of your decision to refuse the appointment. Once you have refused, the Court will either recognize another person named in the will as executor, or may appoint an administrator.
 
   
 
expand   If I have debts at the time of my death, how do they affect the terms of my will?
expand   If I have set up trusts do I still need to have a will?
Estate planning experts generally agree that everyone should have a will, even if they have a trust. Many times, people obtain property after trusts are set up and the new property may not be included in the trusts. If there is no will, the un-included property can only pass according to statute, which may not coincide with your wishes. Also, if the trusts were improperly set up and are not considered valid, then, without a will the property can only pass according to statute.
 
   
 
expand   Is there any way to avoid probate?
expand   Should I have a will?
A will allows you to determine where your assets go after your death. If you do not have a will, then your property will be distributed according to state law. Generally the law passes your estate to your closest biological relatives and does not take into account your relationship with them or their circumstances. Therefore, if you wish to leave property to a friend or charity you should have a will. Similarly, if you have a relative who you choose to prefer but who is not as closely related to you as others, then you also need a will to insure that he or she will receive a portion of your estate. Finally, if you have one child who is well off and another who is in need of financial help; you may need a will if you choose to leave them different amounts of your estate because under the statute they would get equal shares. In your will you can also nominate guardians for your minor children and name the person who will settle your estate.
 
   
 
expand   What happens if the person that I named as executor dies before or with me?
expand   What happens to my estate if I did not have a will?
If you do not have a will at the time of your death, then you are classified as having died "intestate" (without a will). If you are considered "intestate," your property is distributed according to Vermont Statutes. Under the statute, the estate first goes to the spouse and offspring (biological and adopted); if there is no spouse, then the estate is divided between offspring; if there are no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, then the estate passes to the parents of the decedent; if the parents are no longer living, then the estate is divided between any siblings and so on until all relatives of the deceased have been exhausted at which point the estate escheats (goes to) the decedent’s town of residence. Many people fear that the state will take their estate if they die without a will. This is not true and it is very rare for an estate to escheat. The State is obligated by law to make every possible effort to find relatives of the decedent before allowing the estate to escheat.
   
 
expand   What is involved in probating an Estate?
expand   What is the Statute for License to Sell and Convey Real and Personal Estate?
The Vermont Statute is 14 VSA Chapter 75, (Section 1611 et. seq.) at Vermont Statutes Online.
   
 
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Decrees of Distribution or Partition?
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Descent, Omitted Issue, or Lapsed Legacies?
The Vermont Statute is 14 VSA Chapter 45, (Section 551.et.seq) atVermont Statutes Online.
   
 
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Executors and Administrators?
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Inventories, Appraisals, and Accounts?
The Vermont Statute is 14 VSA Chapter 63, (Section 1051 et. seq.) atVermont Statutes Online.
   
 
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Probate Procedure for Construction of Wills?
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Settlement of Claims?
The Vermont Statute is 14 VSA Chapter 66, (Section 1201 et. seq.) atVermont Statutes Online.
   
 
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Small Estates?
expand   What is the Vermont Statute For Suvivors and Spousal Rights?
The Vermont Statute 14 VSA Chapter 41 and 43 (Sections 401 and 461 et.seq.) at Vermont Statutes Online.
   
 
expand   What is the Vermont Statute for Wills?
expand   What type of property does the fiduciary need to have appraised?
The Executor or Administrator may state the estimated fair market value on the inventory. If the property is important or ambiguous in value, it may make sense to have an independent appraisal. Examples of property that may need appraisal are coin collections, paintings, objects of art, real estate, and businesses. Sometimes an appraisal can remove controversy by the heirs who have different opinions of the value. In small estates where the interested persons are in agreement as to value, it is unlikely that formal appraisals are necessary.
 
   
 
expand   What type of time line is there involved with the probating of an estate?
expand   Who can make a will?
According to 14 VSA §1, a person of age and sound mind may devise, bequeath and dispose of his estate, real and personal, and of any right or interest which he has in any real or personal estate by his last will and testament. This means that anyone over the age of 18 (or an emancipated minor) and who is mentally competent is allowed to make a legally binding will.
 
   
 
expand   Who should I name as my executor?
expand   Why do estates have to go through probate?
The probate process is a safety measure for the distribution of property. By going through probate, the estate is examined to determine the legality of the will, or in the case of intestacy, to establish the correct distribution of the estate. The Probate Court oversees the administration of the estate to insure that the executor or administrator is correctly performing his or her duties, that the laws are being followed, and that the final wishes of the decedent are being honored. The probate process also assures that legitimate debts of the decedent are paid and that title to the decedent’s property is converted to the new owner.
 
   
 
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