General InformationFor people who died after December 31, 1980, domiciled outside the District of Columbia but owning assets in the District of Columbia at the time of death, the person appointed personal representative in the other jurisdiction must file the documents required to open a foreign estate proceeding in the District of Columbia before that person will have authority to collect and distribute any of the assets located in the District of Columbia. Because the primary estate is not being opened in the District of Columbia, the estate is called a foreign estate proceeding (FEP), no personal representative is appointed in D.C., and no letters of administration are issued. The filing of a foreign estate proceeding is governed by D.C. Code, secs. 20-341 through 20-344 (2001 ed.) and Superior Court, Probate Division Rule 427. The District of Columbia Code may be found here.
Items Needed to Open a Foreign Estate ProceedingThe following items are required to open a foreign estate proceeding in the District of Columbia. The documents submitted must show that the personal representative is currently appointed in another jurisdiction before a foreign estate can be opened.
1. If the estate has been opened in the United States, copies of the documents filed in the other jurisdiction, including the petition, the will (if any), the order of appointment, and letters of administration, authenticated pursuant to 28 U.S. Code, sec. 1738. Such authentication is commonly referred to as a "triple-sealed" or "exemplified" copy. Certified copies are not acceptable.
If the estate has been opened in another country, the same documents are required and must be authenticated in accordance with the provisions of Superior Court, Civil Division Rule 44(a)(2), which requires that a certificate known as an apostille be affixed or attached to the document. For countries belonging to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, foreign documents certified by an apostille are entitled to recognition without further authentication.
2. One Appointment of Agent to Accept Service of Process form with the original signature of each personal representative and an original signature of the agent located in the District of Columbia.
3. Two Notice of Appointment of Foreign Personal Representative and Notice to Creditors forms with the original signature of each personal representative. The information on this form must match the information on the triple-sealed copies exactly. For example, if the decedent's name in the other jurisdiction did not include a middle initial, the middle initial should not be included on this form. Note that the filer must choose the two publications in which the notice will be published. One must be a daily legal publication (currently, the Daily Washington Law Reporter is the only such publication in the District of Columbia), and one must be a newspaper of general circulation in the District of Columbia.
4. A check or money order payable to "Register of Wills" or cash in the amount of $25.00.
Filing the DocumentsThe items listed above will be reviewed by a member of the Probate Division’s Legal Branch. If the documents are accepted for filing and the filing fee is paid, the filer can also request a Preliminary Certificate, which costs $1.00. The Preliminary Certificate verifies that the authenticated papers have been filed and a foreign estate has been opened. When the documents are accepted for filing, the Probate Division will send the Notice of Appointment of Foreign Personal Representative to the two publications chosen by the filer. The publications will bill the filer directly. The notice is published concurrently once a week for three consecutive weeks in the two publications. The filer is responsible for checking the proofs of publication before they are filed with the Probate Division to ensure that the publication occurred as directed.
If no claims are filed, upon request and the payment of a $10.00 fee, the Probate Division will issue a Final Certificate (also known as a "Certificate of No Claims") after the six-month period set forth in the notice and the filing of the original proofs of publication with the Probate Division. D.C. assets ordinarily cannot be removed or transferred until after the six-month notice period has expired, the proofs of publication have been filed, and a Final Certificate has been obtained unless bond has been posted. D.C. Code, sec. 20-343 sets forth special requirements for transferring assets before the six-month period has expired.