Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after he or she has died. The Probate Division of the Superior Court oversees the probate process for residents of the District of Columbia.
Assets subject to probate include any property the decedent (deceased person) owned individually, outside of a survivorship interest. This includes real property. Real property assets held in a survivorship tenancy, in a trust, or designated to pass upon the grantor’s death by way of a recorded transfer on death deed all transfer outside of the probate process.
Upon the death of a resident of Washington, DC, a petitioner must file for probate. The District of Columbia recognizes large estate, small estate, and abbreviated probate, with options for supervised or unsupervised administration. Consult a lawyer to determine what type of probate is appropriate for the estate’s needs.
The court appoints the personal representative who will oversee administration of the decedent’s estate. D.C. Code § 20-303 establishes the order of priority for appointment of a personal representative, with top priority given to anyone named by a decedent’s valid will to serve as personal representative, or to the next of kin if the decedent has died intestate (without a will). The District of Columbia uses the term “personal representative” regardless of whether the person is named in a will or appointed by the probate division of the superior court.
Under § 20–741, the general powers of the personal representative include the power to sell the decedent’s real property. Sale may be required to raise funds to pay the estate’s debts, or to uphold the terms of a will. A petition of the court for sale may be required, depending on the situation . See also: D.C. SCR-PD Rule 112.
To transfer real property to a buyer, the personal representative executes a deed. Typically, a personal representative’s deed following a sale carries a special warranty. A special warranty covenants that the grantor “will forever warrant and defend the said property unto the grantee…against the claims and demands of the grantor and all persons claiming or to claim by, through, or under him” (D.C. § 42-605).
When a sale is not required, a personal representative may still need to execute a deed to convey real property to heirs or distributees. D.C. Code § 20-1103 states that a quitclaim deed executed by the personal representative is an effective form for the distribution of the decedent’s real property to distributees. A quitclaim deed carries no warranty of title, and simply conveys whatever interest the grantor, in this case, the personal representative, has in the property.
A personal representative’s deed should meet the same requirements for form and content of warranty and quitclaim deeds in Washington, District of Columbia. The basic requirements for a personal representative’s deed to convey a probate estate are a legal description of the property being transferred, including assessment and taxation number; information regarding the estate and probate case, including decedent’s name, date of death, and the case number; and any warranty information, if relevant to the transfer. Deeds following a sale of a probate estate include, in addition, a statement of consideration made for the transfer, and any accompanying realty transfer taxes. The personal representative must sign the deed in the presence of a notarial official before recording with the land records of the District of Columbia.
Available Probate Documents for the District of Columbia:
Consult a lawyer with questions regarding probate procedure and personal representative’s deeds in Washington, DC.