About Us Duties and Responsibilities of Commissioner

The Circuit Court appoints the commissioner of accounts to provide general supervision of fiduciaries within the Court’s jurisdiction. Va. Code Ann. § 64.2-1200. The Court does not delegate its judicial authority to the commissioner. The commissioner’s recommendations are not binding upon the Court and the Court may review the evidence, take new evidence, and make its own determination of the propriety of the commissioner’s report.1 The Court has plenary authority to direct the matter or any portion thereof to the Commissioner as it deems necessary for the convenient dispatch of the business of the Court.2 Absent statutory authority inherent in the appointment as commissioner or a referral from the circuit court, the commissioner has no basis upon which to render an opinion as to the propriety of a fiduciary’s actions.

By the same token, a commissioner, as a quasi-judicial officer charged with responsibility for fiduciary matters, has a duty to render a complete opinion on the matters that are before him. When a party brings an action to settle an account, the court has a duty “to try all the issues, administer full relief to the parties, and to either render an order for the amount found to be due, or to issue an order showing that there is nothing due. The court enjoys broad discretionary power in account matters to make any order or decree as justice requires.”3 The commissioner of accounts has a similar duty. The Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk had occasion to consider the limitations upon the inquiries of the commissioner of accounts in the matter of Trustee’s Sale of the Property of Willie Brown.4 The Court stated

“To perform his duties on behalf of the court, a Commissioner’s authority must extend to every aspect of law or fact related to a fiduciary’s duties, qualifications, and actions that may affect the rights of a beneficiary of an estate or a fund before him. No question of law, equity, or disputed fact concerning an account should be insulated from a Commissioner’s inquiry. Were a Commissioner of Accounts to be prohibited from considering such matters, how could he accurately and effectively assist the court?”

Thus, within the scope of the commissioner’s statutory duties, the commissioner has broad authority to address all the issues affecting those duties.

The commissioner has responsibility to review, audit and approve inventories and accounts of fiduciaries representing estates, trusts, guardianships, and conservatorships, as well as trustee’s accounts of foreclosures. As a part of those responsibilities, the commissioner also conducts debts & demands hearings and hearings pursuant to § 64.2-1209 of the Virginia Code.

Judge Lamb described the commissioner of accounts eloquently, stating

“If the probate courts are ”the courts of widows and orphans“, as they are sometimes called, the Commissioner of Accounts is the executive arm of the court, supporting the shield by which protection is afforded to those inadequately armed to protect themselves.”5


1  Morris v. United Virginia Bank, 237 Va. 331, 377 S.E.2d 611 (1989). Cf. Morrill v. Morrill, 45 Va. App. 709, 613 S.E.2d 821 (2005)(review of recommendations of commissioner in chancery).

2  See, e.g., Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-1023.B. Cf. Va. Code Ann. §§ 8.01-607 and 609 (referral to commissioner in chancery).

3  1 Am. Jur. 2d Accounts and Accountings § 67 (2006).

4  67 Va. Cir. 204 (2005).

5  Lamb, Virginia Probate Practice § 107 (1957).



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