This is the fifth 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), and Part IV: Supervised/Unsupervised (here).
Now, that the personal representative has received letters of administration there are a couple of additional issues that need to be accomplished in relatively quick order.
First, the Notice of Appointment, Notice to Creditors, and Notice to Unknown Heirs (“Notice“) must be published once a week for three successive weeks in a newspaper or periodical of general circulation of the District of Columbia. It is incumbent upon the personal representative to determine what constitutes a newspaper of general circulation. The Daily Washington Law Reporter is informally designated by the Register of Wills as a required newspaper. Many personal representatives make the assumption that the Washington Post or Times are the only other publications of general circulation that qualify. But, that is not true. There are many others in the area and it might be forth a little effort to investigate other options.
The Notice provides creditors and unknown heirs six months from the date of first publication to file claims against the estate or to contest the appointment of the personal representative. The first date publication of the Notice is determined by the Probate Division after the Court appoints the personal representative. The Probate Division will transmit the Notice to the two publications designated by the petitioner when the original petition was filed.
Once the Notices have been published by the publications of general circulation, the publications will send invoices to the personal representative for the costs in publishing the notice. The invoices need to be paid or the administration process comes to halt. Depending on publications, the cost can vary to publish a Notice. The Washington Post is one the most expensive publications of record in the area and can be almost 4 times as expensive as other accepted general circulation publications. Once the personal representative has paid the invoices from the publications, the publications will send the personal representative original proofs of publications
Within twenty (20) days of the date of publication of the Notice, the personal representative must send the Notice plus the General Information for Heirs, Legatees, and Creditors (click here), the “General Information Document.” As you would suspect, the General Information document provides the interested persons with brief introduction into the administration process, basic definitions and other basic information.
Within ninety (90) days, the personal representative must file a document entitled “Verification and Certificate of Notice”, VCNO for short. The VCNO certifies that personal representative has sent the Notice and the General Information document to all of the interested persons. If the VCNO is not filed within ninety days, the Court will schedule a summary hearing with the personal representative to question the reasons for the VCNO not being filed. If the personal representative does not provided an adequate reason the Court may remove the personal representative.
You would be surprised the number of times a personal representative is removed for not filing the VCNO or appearing at the summary hearing. It is almost staggering. If a personal representative is removed, most times the Court will appoint a disinterested member of the Bar to become successor personal representative. That general means an increase in costs because an attorney will charge their normal rate and not the lower rate attributed to the reasonable compensation for non-attorney personal representatives.
I guess I will have to wait until next time when I talk about the inventory and account.