Losing a loved one is never easy, nor is it easy to know what to do in order to wind up that loved one's affairs. There are always issues to be resolved regarding the decedent's assets. It will be up to the family to begin a probate in the Washington, D.C. courts.
The first step is to determine whether there is a will. The will contains instructions from the deceased regarding what to do with his or her assets. The will also designates someone to carry out those instructions called an executor. A will is only used after death, and may also point to other documents such as a trust. The will gets deposited with the court and the probate process begins.
If there is no will, a qualified family member will need to petition the court to handle the probate. Once appointed, that person will be called the administrator of the estate. The decedent's assets will be distributed according to statute instead of in accordance with a will. Regardless of whether there is a will, every probate requires that all of the deceased person's assets be appraised within a certain amount of time.
One of two dates may be used for the valuation -- either the date of death or six months from the death date. Which date should be used will depend on many factors. If the value of the estate is less than $5.25 million, it will not be necessary to file a federal estate tax return. These are just a few of the considerations when beginning a probate for a loved one that died in Washington, D.C. Many people find it helpful and comforting to have assistance with navigating the probate process.
Source: The Herald Dispatch, "Estate planning is crucial after a loved one has passed," June 25, 2013