District of Columbia Last Will and Testament Law

Wills and Estates – Last Will and Testament Law – District of Columbia

Note:    This wills law summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of wills in the District of Columbia, but does contain basic and other provisions.  Hand-written wills, or wills where the testator cannot sign his or her name are not included.

Capacity to make a will: A will, testament, or codicil is not valid for any purpose unless the person making it is at least 18 years of age and, at the time of executing or acknowledging it as provided by this chapter, of sound and disposing mind and capable of executing a valid deed or contract. 18-102.

Execution of written will; attestation: A will must be in writing and signed by the testator, and attested and subscribed in the presence of the testator, by at least two credible witnesses. 18-103.

Revocation of wills:
(a) A will or codicil, or a part thereof, may not be revoked, except by implication of law, otherwise than by

(1) a later will, codicil, or other writing declaring the revocation, executed as provided by law; or
(2) burning, tearing, cancelling, or obliterating the will or codicil, or the part thereof, with the intention of revoking it, by the testator himself, or by a person in his presence and by his express direction and consent.

(b) A will or codicil, or a part thereof, after it is revoked, may not be revived otherwise than by its re-execution, or by a codicil executed as provided in the case of wills, and then only to the extent to which an intention to revive is shown. 18-109.

Opening will before delivery to Probate Court: A person having possession or custody of a testamentary instrument may, after the death of the testator, open and read it in the presence of near relatives of the deceased, who may conveniently have notice thereof, and of other persons, and immediately thereafter may deliver the will or codicil to the Probate Court or the Register of Wills, until proceedings may be held for the purpose of proving it or other action is taken thereon. 18-110.

Withholding will: Whoever, having possession of a testamentary instrument, willfully neglects, for the period of 90 days after the death of the testator becomes known to him, to deliver it to the Probate Court, or to the Register of Wills, or to an executor named in the instrument, shall be fined not more than $500. 18-111.

Taking and carrying away, or destroying, mutilating, or secreting will: Whoever, during the life or after the death of the testator, for a fraudulent purpose, takes and carries away, or destroys, mutilates, or secretes, a testamentary instrument, shall be imprisoned not more than five years. 18-112.

Devises, legacies, etc., to attesting witnesses.

(a) A beneficial devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or power of appointment of or affecting real or personal estate, given or made to an attesting witness to a will or codicil is void as to him and persons claiming under him, except as provided by subsections (b) and (c) of this section.

(b) Where an interested witness to a will or codicil, referred to in subsection (a) of this section, would be entitled to a share of the estate of the testator in case the will or codicil were not established, he or persons claiming under him shall take such portion of the devise or bequest made to him in the will or codicil as does not exceed the share of the estate which would be distributed to him or persons claiming under him in case of intestacy.

(c) The voidance provided for by subsection (a) of this section does not apply to charges on real estate for the payment of debts.

(d) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, an interested witness referred to therein, whether an heir at law or not, is not disqualified as a competent witness to the execution of the will or codicil by reason of his interest. 18-104.


Inside District of Columbia Last Will and Testament Law