The Catholic University of America

Summary of District of Columbia Laws


"The Probate Reform Act of 1994"

D.C. Code Ann. § 20-101 et seq.

The Law: In the District, a will must be probated if the decedent is domiciled in the District and dies leaving property in his/her name alone. Estate administration may either be unsupervised or supervised by the court, and will be supervised only upon court order. The original last will, with the originals of all the codicils, must be filed with the Office of the Register of Wills after the decedent's death regardless of whether the will and any codicils are being offered for probate.

The petition for probate opens the will for probate and results in the admission to probate, the appointment of a personal representative, and the degree of review by the Office. If unsupervised administration is requested, the reasons must be stated in the petition and must request either abbreviated probate or standard probate. The petition, along with four copies of the notice of appointment and notice to creditors, should be filed in person and on the forms prescribed by the Office, and accompanied by the general bond form if applicable.

The person filing the petition must also provide the names and addresses of all other interested parties, including persons named in the will to serve as a personal representative, persons appointed as the personal representative, the surviving spouse, legatees if alive, heirs (with exceptions), and creditors with a claim of greater than $500.

Abbreviated probate permits the will to be declared valid and the personal representative appointed without notice to interested person and without the necessity of formal proof of the will. See D.C. Code Ann. §§ 20-212 and 20-311. Any interested person, a creditor, the personal representative, or possibly the Register of Wills or the court can initiate standard probate. The proponent of the will must present affidavits stating that the will was properly executed. See D.C. Code Ann. § 20-321 et seq.

Personal Representative: The general duties of the personal representative are: wind up the decedent's affairs; locate and collect the decedent's assets; value the decedent's assets; maintain custody, safekeeping and management of the assets; and pay funeral expenses, debts, and claims of the estate. See D.C. Code Ann. § 20-304.

Within 20 days after appointment, the personal representative must send a copy of the published notice of appointment and a general information form from the court to all interested parties and all known creditors. The notice must be sent by registered or certified mail, with prepaid postage, and a return receipt requested. The notice should be addressed to the interested person at their last known address with delivery restricted to the addresses. Within 90 days, the personal representative must file a certification stating the required mailing was completed along with proofs of publication of the notice of appointment and notice to creditors.

Required Filings: Required filings with the Register of Wills include (and are mandatory depending on the circumstances): inventories, proof of publication, accounts, extension of unsupervised personal representative's appointment, and the certificate of completion.

Small Estates: If the decedent died on or after July 1, 1995 and the property subject to administration is valued at $15,000 or less, it may be administered as a small estate under D.C. Code Ann. § 20-351 et seq.

updated 2/18/08 RAB
links updated 6/9/08 rab
Page checked August 4th, 2010, FJL.