The Historic Records Center holds will books from 1742 – 1936. These books contain: wills, inventories, estate and sale accounts, guardianship bonds and accounts, and executor and administrator bonds.
Information on Virginia Probate Records
Individuals dying with a written will died testate. After the death of an individual, his or her will was brought into court, where two of the subscribing witnesses swore that the document was genuine. After the will was proved, the executor was bonded to carry out his or her duties to settle the estate. The court then ordered the will to be recorded. The executor’s bond was also filed with the court. If the witnesses to the will were dead or could not be located, the will was lodged. These lodged wills were not recorded, but were kept by the court and the estate was treated as an intestate estate.
Individuals dying without a will died intestate. The court appointed an administrator who was bonded and issued an order to appraise the deceased’s estate. The court usually appointed four appraisers, any three of whom might serve. They returned an inventory of the decedent’s personal property to the court to be recorded. An appraisal listed the personal property and assigned a monetary value to each item. Accounts current are the statements of moneys received and paid out by the executor in settling an estate.
Virginia did not require the filing of estate papers documenting each activity of the executor. The assumption was made that the executor settled the estate as directed by the will and by law, and no records were created if the work was done correctly. Consequently, Virginia has no estate packets or probate packets. If the executor did not act correctly, the offended party could bring suit in chancery.