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If you recently lost a loved one, you may be asked for a “short certificate” before you can begin managing their affairs. In this article, we will define what a short certificate is, discuss who needs one and why, how to get one, and what to do before requesting a short certificate.
What Is a Short Certificate?
A short certificate is a court document that grants an individual the authority to administer the assets of someone who has passed away. Essentially, a short certificate designates you as the administrator of a decedent’s estate. It’s called “short” because the document is typically short in length, often one page. Once a short certificate is issued, the probate process has begun.
Who Should Get One and Why?
If you are named as the executor, personal representative, or administrator of the decedent’s estate in their last will and testament, then you should get a short certificate so you can begin administering their estate. If the decedent did not have a will when they passed away, you would need to petition the probate court for the right to act as administrator.
You need to get a short certificate because, without this document, you cannot access the decedent’s assets or property. The short certificate indicates to all third parties, such as banks, real estate agents, and creditors, that you have the authority to manage the decedent’s affairs. Once you have the short certificate, you can begin the important work of administering the decedent’s estate, including inventorying their assets, closing their accounts, paying creditors, selling or distributing their assets and property, paying estate taxes, and ultimately completing the probate process. You can also bring a civil action on behalf of the decedent, as in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit.
How Do You Get One?
Not all states issue short certificates. In those that do, the short certificate is issued by the Register of Wills office at the courthouse within the county where the decedent resided. You should bring the decedent’s last will and testament and their death certificate to the Register of Wills in person, along with a valid photo ID and whatever probate fees may apply.
What Should You Do Before Requesting a Short Certificate?
A short certificate comes with a great deal of power and responsibility. Before you request a short certificate to manage your loved one’s estate, you should consult with a Northern Virginia probate lawyer. A probate lawyer can help you understand this significant responsibility and ensure you are the right person to act as administrator of your loved one’s estate. Your lawyer can also help you navigate the complex probate process.
If you’re not certain whether your state issues short certificates, contact our office. We can help you determine how to become a representative of your loved one’s estate. You can reach us at 703-492-9955.