Small Estate Proceeding (SEB)
How do I open a small estate?
General InformationWhen a person dies after April 26, 2001, with assets having a gross value of $40,000.00 or less,* a small estate proceeding may be opened to appoint a personal representative, pay claims, and make distribution of estate assets. More information and the forms required to open a small estate can be found at http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/public/aud_probate/small.jsf
- * If the decedent died between January 1, 1981, and June 30, 1995, the value of the estate cannot exceed $10,000.00. If the decedent died between July 1, 1995, and April 26, 2001, the value of the estate cannot exceed $15,000.00.
Filing the Petition
- The Petition for Administration of a Small Estate should be completed prior to seeing a small estate specialist. The small estate specialist will then review the petition to make sure that it complies with the law and will, if necessary, assist with any corrections necessary for its completion. The specialist will also determine whether sufficient documents verifying the assets and/or liabilities have been supplied, whether further information is needed before the Court can act on the petition, and whether publication is required.
- After the petition is accepted for filing, the small estate specialist will prepare an order for the judge’s signature. In most cases, the order will appoint a personal representative. The order may be a preliminary one, directing publication against creditors or that the personal representative file a Verification of Assets, or it may be a final order in which the Court decides who is entitled to receive monies from the estate and what amounts each individual will receive.
- Publication is sometimes required in a small estate. Publication may be required if (1) the decedent is survived by adult children and the assets are valued at over $11,550.00, (2) the decedent is survived by heirs who are not children and the assets are valued at over $1,515.00, or (3) the decedent owned real estate in another jurisdiction. If publication is required by the Court’s order, the Probate Division will send the Notice of Appointment, Notice to Creditors and Notice to Unknown Heirs form to a newspaper of general circulation selected by the personal representative. The cost of publication is determined by the current rates charged by the publisher. The notice states that the estate is being administered as a small estate, announces the name of the personal representative, and gives creditors and unknown heirs 30 days to file claims against the estate or to object to the appointment of a personal representative. The notice is published only once. The notice is mailed to all interested persons and to known creditors by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. The personal representative must make diligent efforts to locate each creditor. After the publication occurs and payment is made, the newspaper will issue a proof of publication, which is filed with the small estate specialist in the Legal Branch of the Probate Division.
Items Needed to Open a Small Estate
- Petition for Administration of Small Estate
- Decedent’s will (if any) and Certificate of Filing Will
- Photo identification with signature from the petitioner(s)
- Death certificate
- Funeral bill(s) and receipts
- Written verification of assets, including, but not limited to:
Real estate (anywhere), including tax assessed value for the fiscal year in which the decedent died
Current financial statement(s) for bank and credit union accounts and securities
Automobile title (preferable) or registration card and written confirmation of the value of the vehicle. A quote from an on-line source as to trade-in value is acceptable.
Statement showing value of stocks and/or bonds
Uncashed checks of the decedent
- Letter from Unclaimed Property (if any) with value stated.
- Letter from insurance company stating value of insurance proceeds/death benefits payable to the estate.
- Letter from nursing home facility stating value of resident funds payable to the estate.
- Notarized affidavit concerning personal effects of value owned solely by the decedent, if any. The affidavit must specifically identify the item(s) and state the value of the item(s) with a total value of everything. (NOTE: Does not include clothing.)
- Names and addresses of heirs-at-law/next of kin and legatees
named in will (if any). See Page 2 of the petition for further
- Personal Identification Information Form (Form 26)
- Financial Account Information Form (Form 27) (if necessary)
- Court Costs: Check or money order payable to "Register of Wills" or
cash (please bring exact amount). The cost depends on the value of
$ .01 - $ 499.99 no cost
$ 500.00 - $ 2,500.00 $ 15.00
$ 2,500.01 - $15,000.00 $ 50.00
$15,000.01 - $25,000.00 $100.00
$25,000.01 - $40,000.00 $150.00
- Notice of Appointment, Notice to Creditors and Notice to Unknown
Heirs (typed) and Publication Costs (if applicable): Check or money
order payable to the newspaper company of your choice.
- Statement of Claims (if Notice of Appointment is required)
SEB Lower Content
Role and Duties of the Personal RepresentativeThe personal representative has an important role and is responsible for ensuring that all assets are collected, all debts are paid, and distributions of estate assets are made promptly as the Court directs in its final order. Very often, the person appointed by the Court is one of the closest living relatives of the decedent. The decedent's assets must be held separately from those of the personal representative, and the personal representative must keep accurate records of all estate expenses and payments.
Closing the EstateA final order signed by the Court will close the estate. The order gives directions to the personal representative concerning the collection of estate property, the payment of debts, and the distribution of the remaining estate assets to heirs or legatees.
CompensationPersons, including attorneys, appointed to be personal representatives in small estates are not entitled to be paid a commission for acting as personal representatives. Attorneys for personal representatives in small estates can receive up to $1,000.00 as a priority payment under D.C. Code, sec. 20-906(a)(3) depending on the size of the estate and other priority payments.
After-Discovered AssetsIf assets are discovered after a Final Order has issued, a petition for administration of a small estate, marked "Re-Open" should be filed.
- For preliminary questions, please call Probate Division, 202-879-9460, extension 4, or use the Probate Division Live Chat, located at http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/public/aud_probate/small.jsf
LiveChat Small Estates