This is the fourth in a series of posts on the basics of D.C. probate administration. You can read previous posts in this series including Part I: high-level differences between Virginia and D.C. estate administrations (here), Part II: qualifying to be a D.C. personal representative (here), and Part III: Opening the Estate (here).
One of the biggest roadblocks for many petitioners wanting to open a D.C. probate administration is completing the actual petition form. Click here to see what a blank form for a Petition for Probate for someone dying after July 1, 1995 looks like.
Doesn’t look too onerous. But, it is the first set of boxes that tends to give some pro se petitioners a difficult time. Most non-lawyers seem to struggle to figure out the differences between an abbreviated probate petition and a standard probate petition and how those differences plays into supervised administration and unsupervised administration.
- Abbreviated Probate Proceeding
An abbreviated probate proceeding requires less legal formality to open the estate. In this type of proceeding, the court can determine the validity of a will, or establish that the decedent died intestate and appoint a personal representative without advance notice to interested persons and without the necessity of formal proof of the will. In an abbreviated proceeding, the will may be admitted to probate without the testimony or affidavits of the witnesses if the will appears regular on its face and contains an attestation clause reciting that appropriate formalities were followed.
- Standard Probate Proceeding
A standard probate proceeding requires more legal formality. A standard proceeding typically occurs when the petitioner asking to open the estate does not have the statutory priority to be the personal representative, not nominated in the will or the administration is initiated by a creditor. Advanced notice must be given to all known interested persons via certified mail. In a standard probate proceeding, the proponent, or person in support of the will, must present affidavits of the subscribing witnesses to the will and if there is a disagreement concerning the formalities of surrounding the execution of the will, a formal hearing before a judge could be required.
An abbreviated probate proceeding is the preferred option and only in rare occasions would a petitioner opt for standard. However, an abbreviated probate proceeding can be set aside any time within 6 months of notice to interested person of the appointment of a personal representative and a standard proceeding can be instituted.
But, once, the personal representative is appointed in either – abbreviated or standard, the estates are administered in the same manner.
- Supervised Administration
The major difference between a supervised and unsupervised administration is the number of documents that the personal representative needs to file with the Probate Court. In a supervised administration almost every estate document needs to be filed with the court. The personal representative would need to file documents like the inventory or the account with the court. Each filing with the court needs to be filed within a certain time frame. For example, the initial inventory needs to be filed with the court within three months from the date of the personal representative’s appointment. With a supervised administration, the inventory also needs to be in the formal manner as proscribed by the court. See Super. Ct. Prob. R. 409(f)
You can see how time consuming and costly that can be. In fact, the court prefers not to clog the system with relatively routine filings that if a supervised administration is requested by the petitioner the reasons for the request must be stated in the petition. See D.C. Code § 20-402 (2001). There is also the ability for interested persons to convert a supervised administration to an unsupervised administration by filing a waiver.
- Unsupervised Administration
In an unsupervised administration, fewer documents are required to be filed with the court. Many times, the documents only need to be sent to the interested persons. For example, the inventory shall be delivered or mailed to each interested person but the inventory is not required to be filed with the court. The inventory still needs to be sent to interested persons within three months from the date of the personal representative’s appointment. But, the format of the inventory does not have to meet the formal requirements of Superior Court Probate Rule 409(f).
Clearly, having an unsupervised estate is preferred because of the fewer formal filings and requirements. As I move through the process, I will show you some of the issues where having an unsupervised estate can save time and money.
In short, abbreviated/standard relate only to the requirements to open the estate administration while supervised/unsupervised relates to the filing requirements and process for administering the estate.
Next time, we will move into the actual process of administering the estate and discuss the inventory and account.