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The person who the court appoints to administer the estate for the decedent is called an executor if specified in the will or a personal representative if no executor was specified. Executors and personal representatives are also referred to generically as administrators or fiduciaries. Other people involved in the administration of estates include the Commissioner of Accounts (a local person appointed by the circuit court to oversee the administration of estates), the circuit court clerk and his or her deputies, and the circuit court judges.
The will (last will and testament) is a legal document drawn up by a person and/or his or her attorney to specify how a person's property should be distributed and who should administer the affairs of the estate. The List of Heirs is a legal document prepared by the estate's administrator that lists the people specified by the will and/or by law who are eligible to receive distributions from the estate. A copy of a document is certified by a circuit court deputy clerk to indicate that it is a true and complete copy of the original. An exemplified copy also contains the official seals of the judges and clerk of the circuit court.
To probate a will is to officially prove it as the authentic and valid last will and testament of the deceased and admit it to record. Qualification and appointment of a personal representative may or may not accompany probate. If a decedent owns real estate in multiple jurisdictions in Virginia, the will should be probated in the jurisdiction where he or she resided and then a certified copy recorded in the other jurisdictions. If real estate is owned in another state, an exemplified copy of the will must be probated in that state.
There are other contingent beneficiaries set out in the Code of Virginia.
If there is a will, but no executor is named or the specified executor refuses or ceases to serve, the circuit court may grant administration to an alternate executor or a beneficiary of the will.
If there is no will, the surviving spouse is given preference in the appointment of a personal representative, followed by the other natural distributees (children, parents, etc.). Anyone having an interest in the estate may qualify after 30 days.
Whoever is appointed as an executor must take an oath to faithfully perform the duties required and must give bond in an amount at least equal to the value of the estate. If the will does not waive surety, surety must be given on the bond.
The word “sheriff” is derived from the Saxon word “shire-reeve” or “gerefa” and the formation of counties or “shires” dates back to Alfred the Great of England.
The sheriff could call upon all able-bodied men for help. He held this power through "posse comitatus" or power of the county. An example of this power is a sheriff of the old West deputizing a posse to track down lawbreakers.
Through the years, many kings appointed the position of sheriff to the highest bidder. That, with the ultimate authority from the king, forced many sheriff’s to collect monies from the shire by any manner of enforcement imaginable. Then in 1215, many nobleman, ex-sheriff’s, and influential individuals drafted and adopted the Magna Carta, the famous English document in which 27 of the 63 clauses deal with the control and authority granted to the sheriff.
It is interesting to note that in the northeastern United States the constable system was used while the southern states used the sheriff system. When the nation began stretching west, both the constable and sheriff were used as police. The citizens often made these offices elective to prevent the abuse of power. From these humble beginnings the modern sheriff's offices and police departments were born.
The most ancient service to the Crown is the Office of the Sheriff. That office was transplanted to America in 1634.