The Probate Process in Washington, DC

When you think about probate, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, the term “probate” probably makes you think about a long, expensive process that happens after someone dies. You’ve perhaps seen movies or even real-life headlines about salacious stories that happen all as a result of someone dying or preparing to die.

As a probate lawyer in Washington, DC, I can tell you that yes, sometimes probate is a lot like the movies, but most of the time it’s not nearly as glamorous. In this series of articles, I’ll take you through the basics, the types of cases handled by the probate court in Washington DC, and share some tips and tricks to help you get through the process as smoothly as possible.

Let’s start with the question: “What is probate?”

The answer: Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone’s death, which involves demonstrating that the will of the person who died is valid, accounting for all the deceased person’s property, having it appraised, paying outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the property per the will or state law.

Here are some terms that are useful to know when discussing probate:

Will:    Also known as a Last Will and Testament, a will is a legally enforceable declaration of how a person wants his property or assets to be distributed after death.

Beneficiary: A person who inherits when there is a will.

Decedent: The person who died.

Executor: A person named in a will and appointed by the Court to carry out the decedent’s wishes. This person is usually named as the seller of the real property.

Heir: A person who inherits.

Intestate: When someone dies without leaving a will. When there is no will, the sale of the decedent’s real property often requires court confirmation.

Intestate succession: The order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a will.

Legatees, or Devisees: People who are named in a will.

Personal Representative: Also sometimes called the Administrator or Executor, this term refers to the person responsible for overseeing the distribution of the estate.

Probate real estate sale: The transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the person who has died to his or her beneficiaries or to a buyer under the supervision of the Court.

Real Property: The term used to refer to real estate (land and buildings) in probate and trust sales.

Testate: When someone dies leaving a will.

Trust: When a person (trustee) holds property at another person’s (Settlor’s) requests for the benefit of someone else (Beneficiary).

Now that you have some basic understanding of what probate is and some terms, you’re ready to learn more about probate in Washington DC! You can see all the posts in our series on our index, follow along in order, or skip right to the topic you’re interested in.

If you need assistance with probate after a loved one’s death, contact The Gormley Law Office today at 1.240.514.2358, or use our Contact Us feature at the bottom of this page. Our team of compassionate legal professionals will help you simplify the process and bring you peace of mind.

© Copyright Gormley Law Office 2024

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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