The Basics of D.C. Estate Administration Part X: Foreign Estate Proceedings or Ancillary Probate Administration

This is my tenth post on my continuing series on the Washington, D.C. Probate Administration concerning ancillary probate and foreign estate proceedings.  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), Part IV: Supervised/Unsupervised (here), Part V:  Notice and VCNO (here), Part VI: the Inventory (here), Part VII: The Account (here), Part VIII: Priority of Claims (here), and Part IX: Creditor Claims (here).

Just like any other state, D.C. does not have jurisdiction over real property in another state to dictate distribution to an heir. Similarly, another state/nation does have jurisdiction over real property locate in the District of Columbia.  Thus, ancillary probate arises when a decedent domiciled in D.C. owns assets in another state.  When a decedent domiciled in another state owns real property in D.C., the formal process for ancillary probate in D.C. is called a foreign estate proceeding.

A foreign estate proceeding (“FEP”) in D.C. is analogous to ancillary process in Virginia but there a numerous procedural differences that makes an FEP in D.C. more drawn out. However, the process is not more complex than the probate administration of an unsupervised regular estate in D.C. The FEP process also doesn’t differ if the decedent died with a will or intestate.

A personal representative  (“PR”) administering an estate for a non-D.C. domiciled decedent owning real property would start the process by determining the title and ownership of the real property. Perhaps the decedent only owned a share of the property? After getting letters of administration issued from the state where the PR was appointed, the PR would then start the FEP process in D.C.

The documents needed by the PR to open an FEP, including:

  • An authenticated copies of the documents filed in the jurisdiction, including petition, will (if applicable), the order appointing the PR and letters of administration. This packet of documents is generally referred to as “triple-sealed” or “exemplified copies” of the documents. If the documents are from another country, then the documents need to meet with the authentication standards as set forth in Superior Court, Civil Division Rule 44(a)(s). This standard requires that a certificate known as an apostille be affixed to the documents.
  • One appointment of Agent to Accept Service of Process form signed with the original signature of the PR and the original signature of the agent located in D.C.
  • A Notice of Appointment of Foreign Personal Representative and Notice to Creditors (“Foreign Notice of Appointment”). This document and process is similar to the Notice filed in a regular probate administration in D.C. and serves as notice to creditors.
  • A check in the amount of $25.00

Once the documents are accepted, a Preliminary Certificate can be issued stated an FEP has been opened in D.C. The Foreign Notice of Appointment will be published in two publications by the filer with one including the Daily Washington Legal Reporter and another newspaper of general circulation.

After 6 months, the PR would normally file the proofs of publication.  If no claims have been filed against the estate, the D.C. Probate Division will issue Certification of No Claims upon the payment of $10.00. As a note, D.C. assets, including real property, cannot be removed or transferred until after the six-month notice period has expired, the proof of publications have been filed and a Final Certificate has been obtained. If a PR wishes to speed the process along D.C. Code §20-343 sets forth the requirements for transferring assets before the expiration of the six-month period.

If the decedent died domiciled in D.C. and owned property in another jurisdiction, then the PR would need review probate laws in the state where the real property or assets are located and establish the beneficiaries title to the property.  Depending on what state the assets are located in, the process could be relatively easy like Virginia or more complex.


About Chris Guest

I am a trust and estate planning attorney working in the Washington, DC metro area. I offer comprehensive estate planning, trust administration, probate services and general business counseling for accountants, attorneys, business owners, consultants, federal and local government employees, retirees, other business professionals and other individuals.
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