In both Virginia and North Carolina, the claim must be brought by the personal representative or administrator of the estate of the deceased. Someone must go down to the Clerk of Court where the death occurred to qualify to be the personal representative or administrator of the estate of the deceased. After they obtain the Death Certificate from the Coroner, qualifying someone as the personal representative/administrator is the next thing I always advise families to accomplish.
Getting appointed administrator/personal rep for wrongful death claim purposes is not a complicated or difficult thing to do. Some Court Clerks require that you make an appointment with a specific Clerk, usually a probate clerk prior to coming down to the Courthouse. We have and will accompany family members to the Courthouse, if necessary, to insure the process goes smoothly , or to answer any questions they may have.
Whomever qualifies must pay a small fee to the Court and advise the Clerk that this is being done in order to move ahead with a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate of the deceased.
You must realize that even if suit has not yet been filed, and even it has been made clear that the insurance company is ready to offer their full limits of insurance immediately to settle the claim, it does not matter. The defendant’s insurance company will only deal with the person who has qualified as administrator of the Estate /Personal Representative. Until that qualification happens, there is no one to whom the Insurance Company can legally pay the settlement money.
In addition, if the family is interested in hiring an attorney to represent the Estate and pursue the claim, the agreement with the attorney is going to have to be executed by whomever is the personal representative of the Estate.