Reopening an Estate in the District of Columbia
Many people named as personal representatives of an estate feel some anxiety about the probate process, just because it is a legal process with which they do not have any experience. Once the estate settles and closes, they often feel a great sense of relief; later on, they might even enjoy comparing stories with friends who have also acted as personal representatives for a family member’s estate, happy to reminisce that their probate-related duties are now in the past. In most cases, the probate process ends permanently once the estate settles, but under certain circumstances, it might be necessary to reopen an estate that has already settled at the end of its probate. Contact a probate lawyer if you have questions about reopening an estate after probate.
Reasons to Reopen an Estate
The courts of the District of Columbia will reopen an estate after it has already settled for the following reasons:
- Newly discovered assets – The probate process involves identifying all the assets the deceased person is known to have owned and distributing them in accordance with the provisions of the will. When the heirs discover an asset that belonged to the deceased person, such as a bank account or real estate property titled in the decedent’s name, after the estate has settled, they may need to reopen the estate. If the asset has a designated beneficiary, that beneficiary can inherit the asset without reopening the estate; if not, it is necessary to reopen it.
- Newly discovered debts – During probate, creditors have the opportunity to claim debts owed to them from the estate. Once the estate settles, they have lost their chance to claim the debt. Only under special circumstances will the court reopen an estate so a creditor can claim a debt.
- Error in distribution of assets – If you, as an heir, discover that you did not receive the assets bequeathed to you in the will when the estate closed, you can petition to reopen it to have your rightful inheritance distributed to you.
- Newly discovered will – You might be able to reopen an estate if, after it has settled, you discover another version of the decedent’s will. Your case for reopening the estate is especially strong if the newly discovered will was written later than the one administered during probate or if there were disputes over the authenticity of the will during the probate process. If the estate went through probate without a will, and you later discover a will, you have a very strong case for reopening the estate.
- Newly discovered heir – If, during probate, you were unable to locate an heir named in the will, you will need to reopen the estate if you find the heir after the estate settles.
Let Us Help You Today
A probate lawyer can help you persuade the court to reopen an estate if you were excluded from receiving your inheritance during the original probate process. Contact the Washington DC probate lawyers at Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing or call 202-362-5900.