Is your mother mentally competent? If so, you might want to have a lawyer review the will to make sure that there are no legal pitfalls. Keep in mind that the lawyer’s client must be your mother — and not you. Your mother may want to make changes, such as contributions of furniture or jewelry to a favorite charity or relative. She may even want to disinherit you. Although this would be distasteful to you, it is her house and she has the absolute right to dispose of it as she wishes.
The will should name a personal representative, called “PR.” It may be you or someone else. The PR will file the will in the probate division of the court in the jurisdiction where your mother last resided before she died. Letters of administration will be issued formally appointing the PR.
Under the probate laws of Maryland and the District, upon the death of your mother, and once a PR is appointed, her property is automatically owned by the PR. In Virginia, however, title to real property vests automatically in the heirs or in the beneficiaries of the decedent’s will.
So, if the will directs that the property be given to someone other than the PR, the PR will prepare and file with the local recorder of deeds a personal representative’s deed conveying the property to that named person. In your case, however, since you are the sole beneficiary, you will merely prepare the PR deed, conveying the property to yourself.
What will happen if there are large debts owed by your mother, and the only asset is the house? If you do not have enough money to personally pay off those debts, the house may have to be sold to satisfy creditors. In Virginia, even if the property has been vested in the beneficiaries, the PR retains the authority to sell in order to pay off all creditors.
There are other legal requirements placed on the personal representative. For example, in addition to paying creditor claims, real estate taxes and keeping the home insurance current, the PR must arrange to prepare and file federal and state income tax returns, as well as estate tax returns, if required. You should consult an accountant to assist you with these filings. You can obtain the federal income and estate tax forms on line from the IRS at irs.gov.