Settling Small Estates (DC)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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In the District of Columbia, you can simplify probate by petitioning the court for small estate administration, and regardless of estate size, probate is not required if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

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 right of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.


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 DC 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 notice only need to be published once, and the deadline for filing objections or claims shall be 30 days (you do NOT need to publish more frequently as described in Finding DC Debts)
  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

You may also want to check out Making Distributions in general, and note that one downside to the small estate process in DC is that personal representatives are not allowed to charge an Executor Fee in DC.

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

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.


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

Additional Information

If your estate doesn't qualify for a small estate approach, or you're simply interested in exploring standard probate, take a look at Probate in DC.

And since probate is just the court-supervised subset of winding up a person's affairs after death, you'll probably want to check out our Complete Guide to Estate Settlement in DC.

Finally, in case you're interested, details about handling small estates in other states can be found here:

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