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How to Open a Small Estate Proceeding in the Probate Division


Welcome back to our series on the probate process in Washington DC, brought to you by the Gormley Law Firm! In this post, we’re talking about the case types that are overseen by the Probate Division. In Part 3, we talked about foreign estate proceedings, wills and disclaimers.

In this post, we’re ready to delve into the details of how to open a small estate proceeding. Remember that small estates are opened for a person domiciled in the District of Columbia who died after April 26, 2001, with assets having a total value of $40,000.00 or less in his or her sole name and/or real estate only in another jurisdiction.

The procedure for open a small estate proceeding is as follows:

A petition for administration of a small estate is typically filed by the person having priority to serve as personal representative as defined in D.C. Code, sec. 20-303.

The term “priority” is used to here to determine which persons are ranked according to the Code. As you’ll see from the list below, the person who gets first dibs on the personal representative appointment is always the person named in the will that has been admitted into probate.

Appointment as personal representative is in this order, under DC Code:

(A)       The personal representative or representatives named in a will admitted to probate;
(B)       The surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children of an intestate decedent or the surviving spouse or domestic partner of a testate decedent;
(C)       The residuary legatees;
(D)       The children of a testate decedent;
(E)        The grandchildren of the decedent;
(F)        The parents of the decedent;
(G)       The brothers and sisters of the decedent;
(H)       The next of kin of the decedent;
(I)         Other relations of the decedent;
(J)        The largest creditor of the decedent who applies for administration;
(K)       Any other person.

There’s another term that’s useful to know when it comes to small estates, and that term is “abbreviated probate.”

DC Code defines this term as a proceeding for the probate of a will or a determination of a decedent’s intestacy and for the appointment of a personal representative. This proceeding is instituted when an interested person files a petition for an abbreviated probate proceeding with the Court in accordance with the provisions of section 20-304.

Abbreviated probate means that this type of proceeding can opened with the prior notice required for standard probate under section 20-323.

Sometimes a person of lower priority under DC Code may file for abbreviated probate if certain conditions are met. However, standard probate is needed when the petitioner does not have the highest priority to serve or is a creditor or when the will is irregular on its face.  Also, standard probate requires publication of the Notice of Standard Probate.

If you are still with us, congratulations! Probate can be a dry subject at times, but don’t worry: we’re here to help clear the confusion! If you need help with a probate matter, call the Gormley Law Office today, or use the Contact Us feature below. Our team of legal professionals is here to help simplify the probate process and offer peace of mind. Call now!

© Copyright Gormley Law Office 2020

Probate, Estate Planning and Real Estate Attorney
Brian Gormley, Esq. is an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia specializing in real estate, probate, estate litigation and other matters. If you need assistance, please use the Contact Feature at the bottom of this page.
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