Seems like only yesterday, but way back in September of 2010, I wrote a series of posts on the Virginia probate administration process. If you missed it, you can click here and work your way through the ten part series.
It has taken me over two years but I thought I would start a series of posts on the District of Columbia probate administration process. Maryland will have to wait for another day. I hope it doesn’t take me more than two years to get to it. But, I can’t promise.
First, you might ask: aren’t Virginia’s and DC’s probate administration processes the same. Unfortunately, it depends. At a high level, the administration processes are the same. After a person dies, a personal representative is appointed to marshal all the decedent’s assets, pay off debts, distribute inheritance to the heirs, wind down the affairs of the decedent, and attempt to fulfill the wishes of decedent’s Last Will and Testament. The court is involved, on some level, to monitor and ensure the personal representative follows through on their appointment.
At the low-level, the processes are much different. Each jurisdiction places emphasis on different areas of the administration. Not surprising, DC, generally is more restrictive. But, that is not always the case and I will get into the differences along our journey through DC’s probate administration.
To start off, like Virginia, DC’s probate administration only covers probate assets. Probate assets are anything held solely in an individual’s name at the time of death. It could be a bank account with only the decedent’s name on it. Or, it could be a piece of real estate, like a home residence, with a deed titled only in the decedent’s name. It is any asset that after the decedent’s death you can not determine what beneficiary should receive an ownership interest in the asset through joint ownership with a right of survivorship or has some type of beneficiary designation.
Non-probate assets, such as an IRA account, become the property of the designated beneficiary upon the decedent’s death that owned the asset. Assets owned in either joint tenancy with right of survival or tenancy by the entirety (click here for more information on joint tenancy) where the surviving owner of the property takes ownership of the asset upon the decedent’s death are also non-probate assets. The existence of a will is irrelevant to those assets because you know who receives the ownership interest in the asset by operation of law. Non-probate assets will not become part of the decedent’s probate estate and probate administration will have no control over those assets. You can learn more about the differences between probate and non-probate assets by click here.
Lastly, unlike the Basics of Virginia Probate Administration, I will mix in other posts about various estate planning items in between this series.
Copyright © 2013 Law Office of Christopher Guest, PLLC.