Dying Without a Will in the District of Columbia

Laws of Intestacy Succession in the District of Columbia

Washington, DC at night
Sun setting over the Potomac River, Washington, D.C. Credit: Michael Kleinberg

NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When a resident of the District of Columbia dies without having made a Last Will and Testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the D.C. Code will dictate who inherits the probate estate.

Below is a summary of the District of Columbia intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Person is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants and/or Parents

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and/or descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) and/or parents:

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants of that spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants - In this case, the spouse will inherit 2/3 of the probate assets and the descendants of the deceased person will inherit the remainder, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants of that spouse and the spouse has descendants from another relationship - In this case, the spouse will inherit 1/2 of the probate assets and the descendants of the deceased person will inherit the remainder, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse - In this case, the spouse will inherit 1/2 of the probate assets and the descendants of the deceased person will inherit the remainder, per stirpes.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse - In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit 100% of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and parent(s) but no descendants - In this case, the spouse will inherit 3/4 of the probate assets and the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person's remaining probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent will inherit 100%.
  • Surviving by a spouse and no descendants or parents - In this case, the spouse will inherit 100% of the probate estate.

Deceased Person is Not Survived by a Spouse or Descendants

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse or any descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.):

  • Survived by Parent(s) - In this case, the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person's probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent will inherit 100%.
  • Survived by siblings or descendants of siblings and no parents - In this case, the deceased person's siblings and the descendants of deceased siblings (nieces and nephews) will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Not survived by any family members - If the deceased person is not survived by any family members, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the District of Columbia.

What Will You Inherit From a District of Columbia Intestate Estate?

What will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a Last Will and Testament and the relative was a District of Columbia resident or owned real estate located in the District of Columbia? Even if you determine based on the information above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may not inherit anything.

Why? Because your relative may have left all non-probate property or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate which will make the estate insolvent.

If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in the District of Columbia, then consult with a District of Columbia probate attorney to be sure.

Will You Owe Taxes on Your District of Columbia Inheritance?

The District of Columbia is one of a handful of U.S. jurisdictions that still collect an estate tax. Aside from this, your inheritance may be subject to an estate tax at the federal level. You may also owe income taxes (state and/or federal) on certain types of assets you inherit. Refer to the following articles to determine if you will owe any taxes on your District of Columbia inheritance:

NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When a resident of the District of Columbia dies without having made a Last Will and Testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the D.C. Code will dictate who inherits the probate estate. Below is a summary of the District of Columbia intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Person is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants and/or Parents

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and/or descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) and/or parents:

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants of that spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants - In this case, the spouse will inherit 2/3 of the probate assets and the descendants of the deceased person will inherit the remainder, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants of that spouse and the spouse has descendants from another relationship - In this case, the spouse will inherit 1/2 of the probate assets and the descendants of the deceased person will inherit the remainder, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse - In this case, the spouse will inherit 1/2 of the probate assets and the descendants of the deceased person will inherit the remainder, per stirpes.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse - In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit 100% of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and parent(s) but no descendants - In this case, the spouse will inherit 3/4 of the probate assets and the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person's remaining probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent will inherit 100%.
  • Surviving by a spouse and no descendants or parents - In this case, the spouse will inherit 100% of the probate estate.

Deceased Person is Not Survived by a Spouse or Descendants

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse or any descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.):

  • Survived by Parent(s) - In this case, the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person's probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent will inherit 100%.
  • Survived by siblings or descendants of siblings and no parents - In this case, the deceased person's siblings and the descendants of deceased siblings (nieces and nephews) will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Not survived by any family members - If the deceased person is not survived by any family members, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the District of Columbia.

What Will You Inherit From a District of Columbia Intestate Estate?

What will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a Last Will and Testament and the relative was a District of Columbia resident or owned real estate located in the District of Columbia? Even if you determine based on the information above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may not inherit anything. Why? Because your relative may have left all non-probate property or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate which will make the estate insolvent.

If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in the District of Columbia, then consult with a District of Columbia probate attorney to be sure.

Will You Owe Taxes on Your District of Columbia Inheritance?

The District of Columbia is one of a handful of U.S. jurisdictions that still collect an estate tax. Aside from this, your inheritance may be subject to an estate tax at the federal level. You may also owe income taxes (state and/or federal) on certain types of assets you inherit. Refer to the following articles to determine if you will owe any taxes on your District of Columbia inheritance: