Gray v. Binder, Va.

November 2, 2017

Record No: 161419

(As published by the Virginia Supreme Court)

In an estates dispute in which a commissioner of accounts entertained a petition for aid and direction in the interpretation of the decedent’s will and the determination of heirs, and the commissioner’s reports were confirmed by the circuit court, the judgment is affirmed. Commissioners of accounts were established to afford a prompt, certain, efficient, and inexpensive method for the settlement of fiduciaries’ accounts. They serve to assist the circuit court, not to supplant it. Their work is subject to review by the circuit court, which may accept or reject it, in whole or in part. The circuit court here, in confirming the commissioner’s report, was not acting as an appellate court. Commissioners are not lower tribunals from which appeals are taken. When a commissioner files a report, under Code §64.2-1213 it becomes the opinion of the circuit court if no exceptions are filed. When exceptions are filed, the court can accept or reject the report in whole or in part, as provided in Code §64.2-1212. A commissioner’s authority to assist the circuit court with the settlement of estates is simply an extension of the circuit court’s subject matter jurisdiction to administer estates. The circuit court’s jurisdiction to interpret wills and determine decedents’ heirs is undisputed. In this case, the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction over the case and its decisions are reviewed, not those of the commissioner of accounts. The judgment is affirmed.

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