The District of Columbia’s probate process is very similar to Virginia’s, but there are some important differences to be aware of.
By law, D.C. probate can take one of three forms. “Unsupervised probate administration” is the default. Also known as “informal administration,” this type is reserved for those who have little disagreement about how the estate should be handled. As such, the court lets the will guide the process and is only occasionally involved. By contrast, courts are more heavily involved when the estate is large and complex or there are significant disagreements about how it should be administered. This is called “supervised probate administration,” or “formal administration.” Finally, like Virginia, D.C. allows individuals to avoid the full probate process through “small estate administration” if the value of the estate is below a certain threshold amount. But unlike Virginia, D.C.’s threshold amount is $40,000, not $50,000.
Some of the differences between Virginia and D.C. probate are simply in the names. For instance, whereas in Virginia the document showing that an individual has qualified as a personal representative is called a “certificate of qualification,” in D.C. the document is called, “letters of administration.” Nonetheless, they are both essential to allowing the personal representative to carry out their duties. Similarly, in Virginia, one would initiate the probate process by filling out a “probate information form,” but in D.C. this is called a “petition for probate.”
Other differences are matters of administrative structure. Virginia is, of course, organized by counties, each with their own circuit courts, but those courts do not have separate probate divisions specially dedicated to administering the estates of the deceased. As a result, all probate cases in Virginia are filed directly with the circuit court. The D.C. Superior Court, however, does have a probate division.
Finally, there is one significant difference in policy to be aware of. Virginia does not impose an estate tax, regardless of the estate’s value. But D.C. does. Granted, it only applies to estates worth $1,000,000 or more, but keep in mind that this tax is imposed in addition to the federal estate tax.
Whether in Virginia or D.C., Kondori & Moorad, LLP has the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the probate process.