The Inheritance Statute in Washington, DC

By David Carnes

Washington, D.C. has enacted the Uniform Probate Code, a law drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws that is designed to harmonize the probate laws of the various states. The Uniform Probate Code governs the distribution of inheritances bequeathed by people who resided in the District of Columbia when they died.


A last will and testament is a legal document that directs the probate court and the executor, who is named in the will, how to distribute estate assets. The person who makes the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years old and must understand the contents of the will and its legal significance. The testator must sign and date the will in the presence of two witnesses, both of whom must be mentally competent and at least 18 years old.

The Probate Estate

The probate estate consists of all of the testator's property including real estate, personal property, bank accounts and intangible property such as copyrights. The executor is responsible for paying estate creditors and distributing the remainder of the estate to heirs. All estate debts must be paid before any property can be distributed to heirs, even if this results in estate heirs receiving less than the amounts specified in the will.

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Probate Proceedings

Probate proceedings begin when someone submits the will and the testator's death certificate to the probate court. The court then schedules the first probate hearing. At the first hearing, the probate judge appoints the executor named in the will, or an estate administrator if no executor is named, or if the named executor is unable to act as executor. The judge then determines whether probate is to be supervised or unsupervised. Large or complex estates are more likely to be supervised. If probate is supervised, the executor must file reports with the court to list the assets of the estate and report his administration of estate property. The court may hold additional hearings if anyone disputes the validity of the will or makes civil claims against the estate. The executor must distribute a living allowance to the testator's minor children and surviving spouse during the probate process. He also pays estate creditors, files any estate tax returns that come due, and distributes assets to the testator's heirs from whatever assets remain in the estate after creditors have been paid.

Intestate Succession

If there is no will, or if the testator's will is declared invalid, the probate court orders the executor to distribute estate assets in accordance with the District of Columbia's intestate succession rules. These rules award the largest share of the estate to the testator's surviving spouse or domestic partner -- if any -- and progressively smaller shares to the testator's descendants depending on how closely related they are to the testator. If a descendant or a parent does not survive the testator, the spouse receives 100 percent of the estate.


Assets deposited in a living trust by the testator before his death are not subject to probate jurisdiction; instead, the trust administrator distributes assets as directed in the trust deed. If, on the other hand, the trust is created by the testator's will -- known as a testamentary trust -- trust assets are included in the probate estate.

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The Amount of Time Allowed to Probate a Will in Pennsylvania


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Time Limitations in California State Inheritance Laws

Many deadlines follow a person's death as his estate is being probated in California. Probate is the process by which courts make sure that a deceased person's debts are paid and property distributed to his heirs. Deadlines in this process must be satisfied in order for the process to proceed smoothly. Probate only applies if the combined value of the decedent's real and personal property are greater than $150,000 at the time of death. If the estate's assets are less than this, these deadlines are irrelevant.

California Executor Checklist

The executor is the person who manages the estate of the deceased, also known as the decedent, during the probate process. The executor is responsible for paying debts of the estate and distributing assets to the heirs. California law allows for the compensation of executors from the estate assets.

Inheritance Laws in Kentucky

Inheritance laws in Kentucky depend on whether or not the deceased person, known as the decedent, has written a will. If he has made a valid will, his estate passes to his chosen beneficiaries in accordance with his wishes. However, if he did not make a will, his estate will be distributed in accordance with state law. This is known as intestate succession. Additionally, Kentucky requires certain beneficiaries to pay tax on bequests over a certain value.

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