People Involved in the DC Probate Process
In DC, the person who is assigned to handle the probate process is generally known as the executor. While that is the term for most of the country, the term in the District of Columbia for executor is ‘personal representative’. In the DC probate process, the personal representative is the individual that is tasked with marshaling all of the assets of the estate, paying the legally enforceable debts, and making distributions through either the laws of intestacy or according to the decedent’s last will and testament.
Nomination in the last will and testament alone does not allow a named personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. A nominated personal representative must petition the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, Probate Division to serve as a personal representative. When the petitioning individual is appointed, the Superior Court for the District of Columbia issues a Letter of Administration, which serves as the personal representative’s official authority to administer the estate.
Decedent’s Personal Representative
The person that is nominated in the decedent’s last will and testament to serve as the personal representative is the person who is tasked with administering their estate. Of course, a nominated personal representative may choose not to serve or may resign from serving if the situation arises.
Generally, however, whoever holds an original last will and testament in DC has an obligation to come forward and file the original last will and testament with the Register of Wills for the District of Columbia. Filing the will does not necessarily mean that the last will and testament holder is asking to be appointed as personal representative.
A personal representative’s primary duties are to marshal the assets of the estate, pay any legally enforceable debts, file any necessary income or state tax returns, and then make distributions pursuant to the terms of the decedent’s last will and testament or pursuant to the laws of intestacy for the District of Columbia.
Probate Lawyer in DC
Unlike most of the country, the District of Columbia uses the term personal representative instead of the term executor. When an individual is nominated in a last will and testament to serve as personal representative, it may be prudent to seek an estate lawyer or a probate attorney as soon as possible after the death of the loved one so that the nominated personal representative can learn more regarding his or her fiduciary obligations before petitioning the court to serve.
An experienced attorney can also assist with having the nominated individual appointed by the Superior Court for the District of Columbia to serve as personal representative. An attorney can also assist with marshaling all the estate assets, preparing an inventory of the assets, valuing all the assets as of the date of death, and advising on paying legally enforceable debts. A probate attorney can also advise individuals regarding District of Columbia and federal estate tax. Finally, an attorney can assist a personal representative in making a plan for the distribution of the assets.