Important DC Wills Terms to Know

Creating a last will and testament, planning your estate, and the entire probate process can be a very complicated and stressful experience. There are many technical terms that a person will need to learn in order to stay informed on the process and understand what you is happening. However, it is important to remember that a person who wants to make sure their family is provided for after their death does not need to go through this process alone. A dedicated and experienced DC wills attorney can guide a person through the entire process, making sure things are as clear as possible. Ultimately, it is a lawyer’s duty to help a client create a will that best reflects their desires and wishes for their estate.


The testator is the person creating their last will and testament. It is the creator of the will. It is the person who is giving away their assets or determining how their assets are going to be distributed at their death.


A codicil for all intents and purposes is an amendment to a last will and testament, without having to go through the extended process of re-drafting a new will.

Holographic Will

A holographic will is a will that is written entirely in the testator’s sole hand. Because it is a handwritten will, the execution and validation of it can be a complicated process, because DC is a jurisdiction that is very wary of holographic wills.

Attestation Clause

The attestation is a clause that shows that the witnesses have witnessed the testator’s signature and that they have also signed the document and that the document that was signed was the last will and testament.


Abatement of a will occurs when there are not enough assets in the estate to fulfill all of the bequeaths of the last will and testament. The general rule is that documents abate from the bottom up. For example, if a last will and testament includes two specific bequests of $10,000 each, and then the residuary to a testator’s children, but there is only $20,000 in the probate estate after the payment of expenses. The children will likely not inherit anything from the estate so that the specific bequests are satisfied. Abatement is the process of determine which distributions will be honored in the event that an estate cannot satisfy all of the bequests because of the lack of probate assets.


Intestacy are the default laws District of Columbia that make provisions for the distribution of a person’s estate who does not have a will, or their will is deemed to be invalid, or they have not named a personal representative, or have not executed a will to leave their assets. DC intestacy laws step in in the absence of a person’s own wishes.