In Virginia, a Commissioner of Accounts is an attorney appointed by a circuit court to supervise fiduciaries within a particular jurisdiction and ensure that they are properly fulfilling their duties. Our Richmond estate attorney explains futher.
What Types Of Fiduciaries Does A Commissioner Of Accounts Supervise?
Commissioners of Accounts are vested with the authority to supervise "all fiduciaries admitted to qualifying in the court or before the clerk of the circuit court." Those fiduciaries include:
- Executors, administrators, and curators of decedent's estates;
- Trustees of testamentary trusts (i.e., trusts created by a decedent's will);
- Trustees under deeds of trust (including those foreclosing on real estate);
- Court-appointed guardians for minors;
- Conservators of incapacitated persons' estates; and
- Fiduciaries appointed for incarcerated persons (referred to as "committees").
Notably, Commissioners of Accounts do not have jurisdiction over trustees of "trusts under the agreement." When a person establishes a trust through a document separate from their will, Virginia law does not require that the trustee of the trust qualify before a court or clerk. That is true even if the trust contemplates what happens to the person's property after their death. Accordingly, trustees of trusts under the agreement are not subject to the supervision of Commissioners of Accounts.
What Does A Commissioner Of Accounts Do?
The most basic duty of a Commissioner of Accounts is to review and approve (or refuse to approve, require revisions to, etc.) inventories and accounts filed by fiduciaries under their supervision. Virginia law requires that fiduciaries file accounts with the Commissioner of Accounts at regular intervals. It is the Commissioner of Accounts' job to review a fiduciary's account and ensure that they are doing what they are supposed to do, for the protection of both beneficiaries and creditors. If a fiduciary fails to file a timely inventory or account, the Commissioner of Accounts may take action against them. Usually, that begins with a letter reminding the fiduciary to fulfill their duties, but for seriously delinquent fiduciaries, it can ultimately result in a referral to the circuit court and proceedings to determine whether the fiduciary should be held in contempt.
The accounting process usually proceeds without controversy. However, Virginia law allows interested persons to initiate an adversarial proceeding before the Commissioner of Accounts by objecting to a fiduciary's account or insisting that something be done. When that happens, the Commissioner of Accounts will usually conduct a hearing to address the interested party's concerns.
When a Commissioner of Accounts is finished reviewing a fiduciary's account, he must report the account to the circuit court and provide notice of that filing to certain interested parties. Those parties then have 15 days to file "exceptions" to the Commissioner's report, in which case the circuit court will review the matter. If no exceptions are filed within the 15-day period, the Commissioner's report is automatically confirmed.
Virginia law also gives Commissioners of Accounts authority to conduct other adversarial proceedings. For example, Commissioners of Accounts may hear evidence of debts and demands claimed by creditors against a decedent's estate. Commissioners of Accounts may also conduct proceedings to determine whether a fiduciary's bond is adequate or whether a fiduciary should be removed because of their incapacity or misconduct.
Hire Our Virginia Estate Dispute Attorneys To Represent You Before The Commissioner Of Accounts
Compared to being in court, proceedings before a Commissioner of Accounts can seem relatively informal. However, an adversarial proceeding before a Commissioner of Accounts should not be taken lightly.
If you are involved in a situation surrounding a will that you suspect does not reflect the true intentions of the decedent, or that you suspect is not the decedent’s true will, you should consider consulting with an experienced estate dispute attorney who is well versed in estate litigation. We have been proudly servicing clients throughout Richmond, Virginia and surrounding areas.
We know that dealing with legal issues affecting your family can be stressful, but we will proactively work to provide you with peace of mind as you move forward. If you’re in need of assistance with a will contest or estate dispute, contact us today at 804-409-0876 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.