Virginia does have a small estate affidavit that you may sign to get access to the small bank account. There are a few requirements:
1) The total value of your father's probate estate does not exceed $50,000;
2) You have to wait at least 60 days from the date of his death to sign the small estate affidavit and thus get access to the account;
3) Since there was a will, it should be recorded in the Clerk's office in the Circuit Court where he lived. A list of heirs will also need to be recorded (the Clerk should help you with that);
4) Assuming the three of you are all co-beneficiaries of the estate, the three of you should sign the small estate affidavit in front of a notary public (after the 60 days have passed).
Once you have done all of the above, you can take the small estate affidavit to the bank and the bank should close the account and give equal checks to the three of you. Until you can do this, you tell the nursing home that you are working on getting access to your father's assets and as soon as you do, you will pay their bill.
Most states have a Small Estate procedure for estates that are of nominal value. The limit in California is $150,000, but most states have a lower limit.
If your father's estate is under the limit for his state, you will only need to complete an affidavit to claim the money.
The bank may have a form for this purpose, but if not, you may need to have the assistance of a local attorney.
The opinions expressed are of general legal principles, and are not specific to the laws of any state or other jurisdiction. I am licensed only in California.
I always follow the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. Contact the bank and see what they require. Generally a small estate procedure will do, but the banks may have forms that will allow for the transfer of the account without even going to court. Best to start there.
This answer is intended for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the attorney.
Three of us all agree. Likely a Small Estate Affidavit will work. Ask the bank if that is correct. If yes, then look online for the form for Virginia or consult with a local attorney if you can't figure out the form.
Legal Disclaimer: Paul A. Smolinski is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois only, and as such, his answers to AVVO inquiries are based on his understanding of Illinois law only. His answers are for general information about perceived legal issues within this question only and no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to extend any right of confidentiality between you and Mr. Smolinski, to constitute legal advice, or create an attorney/client or other contractual relationship. An attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement including an evaluation of the specific legal problem and review of all the facts and documents at issue. We try to insure the accuracy of this information, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. The reader should never assume that this information applies to his or her specific situation or constitutes legal advice. Therefore, please consult competent counsel that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction and who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances.
Since you state that your sister lived where dad lived and that you (and your brother) live a distance away, it is not clear what state your father's Will may need to be probated in or whether it would even need to be probated. Those types of questions would be answered by the laws in the state where your father resided at the time of his death.
You may want to speak with the appropriate person at the bank directly. It is possible that your father's bank account had a POD designation (i.e., payable on death), which would take it out of the estate all together. The person designated as the POD beneficiary would need a certified death certificate and would likely have some paper work to file out for the bank, but would not need to probate anything to get the funds in the account. Also, in at least some states accounts that have less than a certain dollar value at the time of death can be closed out without anything being required from the court (just bank forms filled out) or with a power of appointment by the probate court (without necessity of filing a will for probate).
However, I would recommend at least consulting with a probate attorney prior to collecting any assets and the distributing. There may be other creditors who have a higher priority to payment from father's estate than the nursing home and you and your siblings do not want to create legal problems for yourselves for improperly executing your fiduciary duties as administrators or executors of his estate.
This response does not create an attorney-client relationship and is intended for general information purposes only.