A DC probate attorney helps a personal representative throughout the entire process, starting by assisting with the preparation of the necessary pleadings. An attorney advises the client about his or her duties as personal representative. In addition, a DC probate lawyer may assist with marshaling of the assets, valuing of the assets, the preparation of the estate tax return, and making a plan for distribution.
Distribution of Assets in Probate
When dealing with an estate in probate, the method of distribution depends on the type of assets that are distributed. Generally, assets are distributed according to the laws of intestacy of the District of Columbia or pursuant to the terms of a decedent’s last will and testament. If, for example, the decedent had planned the distribution of assets with a trusts and estates attorney, the distribution of assets may look a lot different from the distribution of assets under the laws of intestacy. Additionally, if a decedent had a joint account with another person, there may be other factors to take into consideration.
In the event that the decedent dies without a last will and testament, the District of Columbia provides a default set of rules that establishes the order and amount of distributions to be made to the heirs of the decedent. It also established an order of priority for who may serve as personal representative of the estate.
There are several types of DC probate proceedings. The facts of the case dictate the proceeding that best fits the case and the proceeding to implement. The main categories of estate proceedings are supervised or unsupervised proceedings.
In many cases, if applicable, a person applies for the unsupervised proceeding because it requires less court oversight and has more streamlined filing requirements. However, a DC probate lawyer can help you determine if you would benefit more from a particular type of proceeding. The amount of the probate estate dictates whether an estate will be a large estate or small estate.
Opening an Estate in DC
To open an estate proceeding in DC, a person petitions the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, Probate Division to be appointed as personal representative of the estate. Typically, a person files a petition for probate, listing the name and address of the petitioner, who is often the nominated personal representative or the person seeking to be appointed as a personal representative. The person also includes the original will, if there is one.
Notice may be required to be published for three consecutive weeks in newspapers. The nature and timing of the notice may differ, depending on the proceeding that is initiated.
In an unsupervised proceeding, it is usually unnecessary to have a court hearing. In a standard probate situation, a court hearing may be necessary to appoint a personal representative. It depends on the facts of the case and the nature of the administration that a person seeks.
Personal Representative Duties
Generally, the personal representative acts as the fiduciary for the estate assets. This means they manage the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. That includes marshaling all of the estate’s assets, paying any legally enforceable debts or expenses of the estate, filing DC specific tax returns, state and federal income and estate taxes, and paying, with the estate funds, any federal and state taxes that are due. The personal representative ensures the distribution is made pursuant to the terms of the last will and testament, or to the District of Columbia laws of intestacy.
A DC probate lawyer can help personal representatives accomplish many of these tasks, including marshaling assets, preparing documents for the court, and identifying legally enforceable debts.
Unsupervised and Supervised Estates in DC
The difference between an unsupervised and supervised estate is the court’s continued oversight during the administration. With an unsupervised estate, after a personal representative is appointed and files the verification and certification of notice, there is nothing else required to be filed with the court. The inventory and accounting are sent to the beneficiaries or the heirs, but these are not necessarily filed with the court. With a supervised administration, the court oversees the inventory and the accounting. Also, there may be additional filing requirements due to the court’s continued supervision.
A DC Probate Lawyer Can Help With Estate Administration
If you are the personal representative or want to become the personal representative of a loved one’s estate, please contact us today. A DC probate lawyer can help explain the intricacies of the probate process and can help you navigate the paperwork and obligations associated with being a personal representative. Someone who is interested in helping family members avoid the probate process or simplify the process at should also seek the help of an experienced attorney about writing a last will and testament.
Someone who is a business owner or has a share in a business would also benefit from consulting a lawyer if they are interested in protecting their business interests after their death. Without a last will and testament, business succession will be impacted and a person’s wishes for their business may not be met.