DC Estate Administration Attorney
A DC estate administration attorney can guide you through the challenges of administering a will. Call Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC for help in estate administration issues.
Estate Administration Lawyer in Washington, DC
Administering an estate after a loved one’s passing can be emotionally and physically draining, especially in a time of grieving. Estate administration is the process of transferring a dead person’s estate property and assets to their heirs according to a will or the intestate succession laws of Washington, DC.
The personal representative, or executor when there is a will, is responsible for overseeing the entire process, from the initial filing with the probate court to settling estate debts and distributing assets.
Most of the time, the personal representative is the surviving spouse or a close relative who is rarely familiar with the probate process but is almost always too emotional to push through the cumbersome process. This is where probate lawyers come in handy.
A DC probate attorney can provide you with the legal guidance you need to carry out your estate administration duties seamlessly. They can handle and prepare all the necessary paperwork and advise you on how to proceed at every step.
If you were named the will’s executor or are interested in becoming the estate’s personal representative, our DC estate administration attorney at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, can help you.
The Estate Administration Process in Washington, DC
Administering and settling an estate in Washington, DC, involves several essential steps. It’s crucial to respect the requirements and deadlines to ensure a smooth and timely process.
Here is a breakdown of the steps involved in administering an estate in DC:
1. Initiating the Process
The first step is determining if the estate qualifies for the small estate probate process, which is much easier and faster. In DC, any estate valued at $40,000 or less is considered small.
2. Filing a Petition for Probate
The personal representative files a petition with the probate court along with the will if there is one. A petition for appointment of personal representative must also be filed with the court so that the executor is officially authorized to act as the estate’s personal representative. If no will is left or no executor is named, the court will appoint one from the decedent’s next of kin following DC probate law.
3. Notifying Interested Parties
A notice of appointment, notice to creditors, and notice to unknown heirs must be published in publications chosen by the personal representative. Anyone who wants to file a claim against the estate as a creditor, object to the appointment of the personal representative, or contest the will must do so within six months of the publication date.
4. Inventory and Appraisal
The personal representative prepares an inventory of the estate’s assets, obtaining appraisals when necessary.
5. Paying Debts and Taxes
The personal representative identifies and pays off any outstanding debts and taxes the estate owes. The process may involve filing final income and estate tax returns if applicable. The personal representative may be held liable if they fail to pay taxes.
6. Distributing Assets
Once all debts and taxes are settled, the personal representative distributes the remaining assets according to the will or the state’s intestacy laws.
7. Closing the Estate
The executor files a certificate of completion with the court, announcing that their duties as a personal representative have been completed and the estate is ready to close. If no certificate is filed, the estate will close automatically after three years of the representative’s appointment.
When Do You Need an Estate Administration Attorney?
While every personal representative should consider consulting an estate administration attorney to be able to perform their duties as required, certain situations make hiring one an absolute necessity. Here are some cases where working with a DC probate lawyer is crucial for a smooth and timely probate process:
- Large Estate: If the decedent’s estate is valued at more than $40,000, it is considered a large estate. As opposed to small estates, you don’t receive any legal guidance from the Legal Branch of the Probate Division when probating large estates in DC.
- Family Disputes: When family disputes arise following a loved one’s death, there’s a high chance that these conflicts will be taken to court. Family members, whether named in the will or not, can contest a will or object to the appointed personal representative. Contested wills make the probate process even longer and more complicated. An estate administration attorney can help you fight lawsuits or work with you and the family to avoid them altogether.
- Estate Taxes: DC imposes its own state estate tax of 11.2% to 16% on estates worth at least $4,528,800 in 2023. If the estate you administer is equal to or higher than the threshold, you are required to file a DC estate tax return. Getting legal help for this purpose is invaluable, as they can help you use all the legally allowed deductions to lower the value of the estate and thus avoid owing taxes.
What Does an Estate Administration Attorney Do?
An estate administration attorney is familiar with DC probate processes, laws, and regulations. Their knowledge and experience are insurmountable for personal representatives administering a loved one’s estate.
Estate administration attorneys can help you in the following ways:
Advising you on your duties and responsibilities
Assisting you in locating and valuing estate assets. This may be critical in the case of unclaimed assets, such as government benefits
Advising you on non-probate assets, such as those held under a trust or jointly owned
Helping you understand how the decedent’s will interacts with their other estate planning documents
Preparing and filing the petition for probate and petition for appointment of personal representative, along with the necessary forms
Resolving probate issues and handling any lawsuits that may brought, whether by family members or creditors
Ensuring the correct distribution of assets according to the deceased’s will or DC intestacy laws
Handling the tax and debt settlement process
Providing overall legal guidance and support throughout the administration process
Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC Can Help
If you are chosen as a personal representative, you should know that you don’t have to and shouldn’t handle administering an estate alone. Besides the many duties and tasks you have to carry out, you can be held liable for procedural and contractual mistakes.
Working with a qualified estate administration attorney from Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, can help you ensure compliance with the law and the proper execution of all your duties. If necessary, we can also help you manage other estate planning matters, such as trust administration.
Contact our experienced D.C. estate administration attorney today for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens if Someone Dies without a Will?
When someone dies without a will in Washington, DC, a court-appointed personal representative will administer the estate from the decedent’s relatives, usually the surviving spouse or child. The personal representative will distribute the assets among the deceased’s legal heirs according to the DC’s intestacy succession laws.
Can a Will Avoid Probate in Washington, DC?
All wills must go through probate in DC. However, small estates of $40,000 or less qualify for a simplified, faster process. It’s important to have a comprehensive estate plan in place to save your family the trouble of going through probate. Our wills and trusts lawyer can help you.