DC Probate Process Without a Will

The process of probate without a will in DC can be complicated. That is why it is important to work with an experienced probate lawyer who can help make the process as smooth as possible.

The Process

The process for the handling estates without wills is similar to administering estates with wills in DC. The personal representative has all of the same duties and responsibilities that a representative would have if a will were in place. The person is still responsible for collecting all of the estate assets and ensuring that all legally enforceable debts have been paid and in the correct order of priority. They are also still responsible for ensuring that the proper distribution is made to the rightful beneficiaries of the estate.

The distribution to beneficiaries is a little different because if there is a valid last will and testament, the distribution of estate assets will be pursuant to the decedent’s wishes as long as the will is found to be valid. If there is no will, the distribution to the decedent’s heirs is spelled out by statute. An attorney can further explain these differences.

Problems from the Lack of a Will

There can be some problems stemming from the lack of a will in disposing of an estate among heirs and beneficiaries. This is because the distribution of assets will be pursuant to DC law. Sometimes beneficiaries and heirs do not necessarily understand how distribution occurs in DC because its laws of intestacy are different from other jurisdictions. For example, in other jurisdictions, if there is a surviving spouse of the decedent, the spouse is entitled to the entire estate even if the decedent had children. In DC, if there is a surviving spouse and children, the spouse’s share changes. Heirs and beneficiaries often are not aware of that, and it can create confusion and disagreement among the parties.

What is a Race to the Courthouse?

A race to the courthouse is not a term used in DC, but occurs when a decedent dies without a will and therefore their estate is considered an intestate estate. In this case, more than one person may be eligible to serve as personal representative. The first person to apply for the role may be appointed over others who may have equal priority to serve.

For example, if a parent was not married to the decedent at the time of the death that left three living children, all three children would have equal priority to serve as personal representative. Thus, it is possible that the first child to petition the court to be appointed as representative would “win the race to the courthouse.” However, if the spouse was still living along with their three children, the spouse would have sole priority over any of the children. The first child to the courthouse could be appointed, however, if the surviving spouse renounced their priority to serve as personal representative.

An Attorney Can Help in the DC Probate Process Without a Will

The benefits of working with a lawyer is that someone familiar with the laws of intestacy in DC and familiar with the administration of estates understands how the estate will be distributed. An attorney could guide the family through the process of handling probate without a will in DC. That could involve ensuring that the personal representative is making the proper filings and making accurate descriptions when it comes to estate assets and then ensuring that the distributions to the beneficiaries is pursuant to DC law. To learn more, call today.