Probate for Small DC Estates

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Courthouse for estate probate

In the District of Columbia, you can simplify probate by petitioning the court for small estate administration.

Requirements for Small Estate Administration

In Washington DC, an estate qualifies as "small" if its probate value is <$40,000.

In calculating estate value, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts (other than secured debt such as liens and mortgages). Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

Process

If the estate qualifies as small, you can simplify the probate process as follows:

  1. Submit a Petition for Administration of Small Estate to the court (see below)
  2. Upon approval, the court will appoint you as personal representative for the estate, and give you "Letters", and direct that you pay any outstanding funeral bills and any family allowance
  3. If it appears that the estate will have property remaining after paying the funeral expenses, and there is no family allowance to pay, the court will direct you to provide Notice of Appointment according to DC Code § 20–704, except that the deadline for filing objections or claims shall be 30 days
  4. If notice was required, once the claims deadline has expired, file a Statement of Claims with the court, who will direct you to pay all valid claims and distribute any remaining property to the rightful recipients

One downside to the small estate process in DC is that personal representatives are not allowed to charge an executor fee.

No Small Estate Affidavit

Many people ask about using a small estate affidavit without any court involvement, but DC does not support such an affidavit. You must use the above method (or full probate) for handling small estates in DC.

Court

In the District of Columbia, the Probate Division of the Superior Court handles estate matters.

See also Administration of a Small DC Estate Guide, and DC Code § 20–351 et seq for statute details.

See also General Probate.

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