DC Will Requirements

Learn about DC’s will requirements with Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC. Protect your future and ensure your last wishes are carried out. Call us today.


Creating a Valid Will in the District of Columbia

The will is an essential legal document of any estate plan. It is used to direct the distribution of an estate, ensuring your loved ones are taken care of. If you die without a will, the state will decide who will inherit your assets.

Regardless of how straightforward you may think your situation is, the will is an indispensable document. Moreover, having a valid last will and testament is crucial to ensure your wishes will be carried out after you’re gone. However, to achieve that, specific requirements must be met.

For example, in many states, wills have to be written; oral wills are rarely considered valid and only in limited circumstances. Also, witnessing laws vary in U.S. states. In most cases, the will won’t be legally binding unless signed in front of one or more witnesses.

Unfortunately, these are not the only requirements. There’s a maze of other regulations and state laws surrounding the creation of a will in Washington, DC. But this article can be used as a guide through that maze.

The District of Columbia allows you to write your own will, but doing so is not always a good idea. If you want to make sure your last will and testament in Washington, DC, meets all your wishes and state requirements, contacting an estate planning attorney at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, can be beneficial.

Why You Need a Will in DC

Importance of a Will

The person who writes a will is known as a testator. In a will, the testator names an executor or a personal representative. Their job is to ensure the terms of the will are met. The will also names successors or beneficiaries. A beneficiary is a person named in the will who will receive something from the person who has died.

Although it can be unpleasant, your loved ones need to know your preferences on several legal matters when you pass away. By creating your last will and testament, they can learn the following:

  • Whether you want to leave your assets to a particular organization

  • The beneficiaries

  • The person who will be the guardian of your minor children if you have any

  • What will be the final arrangements for the deceased, including burial

As a result of having a will in place, your loved ones will have a record of your wishes.

Risks of Not Having a Will

If you die without a will, you will die intestate. In other words, asset distribution will be carried out according to state intestacy laws. That means the state will decide who will inherit your assets and in what order.

Furthermore, beneficiaries won’t be able to challenge the court’s distribution under the intestacy laws, even if the deceased person had expressed different wishes verbally during their lifetime.

If there is no will in the District of Columbia, the deceased’s property will first be distributed to their children and surviving spouse. If there’s neither, the deceased’s parents or grandchildren will become beneficiaries. The list continues in a specific order and can include siblings and other distant family members. If the descendant had no living relatives or marriage partners, the District of Columbia would take the descendant’s property.

Key DC Will Requirements

Under DC laws, specific requirements must be met in order to create a valid will. 

Legal Age and Mental Capacity

First of all, the person making the will must be at least 18 years old. Furthermore, according to DC Code Section §18-102, they must also be “of sound and disposing mind.” That typically means the testator is aware and understands what they own and what they are leaving to their beneficiaries. Witnesses also guarantee the testator is of sound mind.

Will Formalities

The will must be in writing and signed by the testator or by someone in their presence and at their direction. Additionally, the will must be witnessed by at least two individuals who are competent and not named as beneficiaries in the will. They are called witnesses.

Two witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator and each other. These requirements help to ensure the authenticity and legality of the will, providing certainty in the distribution of the testator’s assets.

Executors and Guardians

It is crucial for the testator to choose a reliable and trustworthy individual to act as their executor or personal representative. This person will need to handle various administrative tasks such as:

  • Filing the will with the appropriate court

  • Gathering and inventorying assets

  • Notifying creditors

  • Paying debts and taxes

  • Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

A personal representative or anyone else in possession of a will should file a will to the probate court within 90 days of the deceased person’s death. If the decedent had assets, the personal representative should also file a petition for probate of the will.

Bear in mind that assets can’t be distributed to minors or incapacitated adults. That’s why it’s important to name a guardian of the estate of a minor or conservator for an incapacitated person. If they are not named, the court may appoint one. However, the testator can also name a guardian who will raise their minor children in case of the testator’s death.

Similarly, if someone establishes a trust for their children, they will have to name a trustee who will manage the money and personal property put in the trust. However, setting up a trust in the District of Columbia can be complicated, so asking a DC trust lawyer for assistance may be a good idea.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Improper Execution

If the will had been signed but not witnessed properly, a court is unlikely to accept it for probate, even if the testator mistakenly thought the will was valid. If one witness doesn’t sign the will or if other legal requirements weren’t followed when creating a will, that can result in the will being invalidated.

A will can also be contested if the testator signs it without knowing its content. That can be considered exerting undue influence over a vulnerable person.

Outdated Information

Updating your will regularly is crucial, especially if the life circumstances change. Not updating or making a new will can lead to confusion in case of your death. For instance, if you get married or have a child and forget to update your will, the court will be obligated to follow the existing will upon your death, regardless of whether your child or new spouse is included.

Want to Know More About the District of Columbia Wills? Contact Us Today! 

People often put off writing a will because they don’t want to think about it, or the whole procedure can seem too complicated. From the requirements of creating a valid will to the appointment of a reliable personal representative, each step requires careful consideration.

Navigating through the legal requirements and complexities of will requirements can be challenging, so hiring an estate planning lawyer is very important. Estate planning can be complex, but we at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, strive to make it as simple as possible for our clients. Our team helps each client work through the legal questions regarding will requirements and understand how the choices they’ve made today will affect their life down the line. 

Reach out to us, and let’s begin securing your legacy today.