Part 13 Probate in Washington, DC: Opening a Will Case
This is part 13 of our series on probate in Washington, DC. If you missed the previous posts, check out the index to our entire series to catch up on anything you missed.
This series is brought to you by the Gormley Law Office, a full-service probate law firm specializing in probate cases in the District of Columbia. Call us for help with your probate matter at 1.240.514.2358 or use the Contact Us feature at the bottom of this page.
By now, you know all about small estate proceedings, large estate proceedings, foreign estates, and in this post we’re talking about will cases. These cases aren’t really proceedings – but if there is a will, it must be filed with the Probate Division before or at the same time as the estate proceeding is opened.
That’s because a will isn’t effective until it has been filed with the Probate Division. Wills have no legal effect until admitted to probate by a court order under D.C. Code, sec. 20-302(a). You can’t take any action under the will without filing it first.
After the person with the will dies, the will is filed with the Probate Division’s Probate Clerk’s Office after death. The will filed should be the original and executed properly under DC law. However, if you don’t have an original, a copy may be filed.
The will should be filed within 90 days after the death of the person making the will, along with a Certificate of Filing Will. If there are irregularities with the will, an Affidavit of Witness may also be filed to explain the irregularities.
These documents are assigned a case number and are linked with any estate case that is opened for the decedent.
What if your loved one doesn’t have a will? Then there’s nothing to file, and not having a will doesn’t prevent you from opening an estate proceeding.
Our firm normally handles the filing of the will on behalf of our clients as part of the probate services we provide. This is perhaps the easiest kind of probate matter to open.
It’s fairly straightforward unless there are concerns about the will being modified, or the decedent being under duress or undue influence or any other issues. In those instances, we recommend contacting our office for a consultation.