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District of Columbia Courts

Foreign Estate Proceedings (FEP) FAQs

Definition - What is a foreign will?

A foreign will is a term used to describe a will that has been filed and accepted in a state or jurisdiction other than the District of Columbia.

Definition - What is an "apostille"?

An apostille is a certificate recognized under the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. It is used to authenticate legal documents from another country and is required under Superior Court, Civil Division Rule 44(a)(2).

Getting Started - Are notarized documents good enough? What is a triple-sealed document?

Notarized or certified copies are not acceptable. The documents from the other state must be authenticated by that court in accordance with 28 US Code, sec. 1738. Such authentication is commonly referred to as "triple-sealed" or "exemplified." An authenticated or triple-sealed document is one that is signed and sealed by an appropriate Clerk of the Court, a Judge/Magistrate Judge, and an appropriate Clerk of the Court.

Getting Started - Can foreign estate proceedings be opened when the Court in the other jurisdiction has not appointed a personal representative?

No; a foreign estate can only be opened in the District of Columbia if and when a personal representative has been appointed in the other jurisdiction.

Getting Started - How do I get an apostille?

Apostille copies of documents from a foreign country must be obtained from that country. You should consult with that country’s embassy in the District of Columbia to obtain a proper apostille. However, if the foreign country is not a party to the Hague Convention, an apostille must be obtained from the United States Embassy located in that foreign country, with a proper English translation when necessary, certified by an appropriately authorized translator as designated by the United States Department of State or the United States Department of Justice.

Getting Started - How much does it cost to open a foreign estate?

The cost to open a foreign estate is $25.00. The cost of a Preliminary Certificate is $1.00, and the cost of a Final Certificate is $10.00. Payment may be made in cash or by check or money order payable to "Register of Wills."

Getting Started - How soon after the decedent's death must a foreign estate be opened?

There is no set time.

Getting Started - Is bond required?

Bond is required if the personal representative for the foreign estate wishes to remove, lease, or transfer personal, leasehold or real property located in the District of Columbia within the six-month claim period.

Getting Started - When is a foreign estate needed?

When a person’s estate is opened somewhere When a person’s estate is opened somewhere other than the District of Columbia, but the decedent owned real estate or had personal property, such as a bank account, in the District of Columbia.

Getting Started - Who can serve as agent for the foreign personal representative?

A person who lives or maintains an office in the District of Columbia can agree to serve as agent by filing the Appointment of Agent to Accept Service of Process form. A corporation with a DC business address may also be used as an agent, as long as the Appointment of Agent to Accept Service of Process form is executed by an authorized officer of the corporation. The Register of Wills cannot serve as agent.

Other Questions - Can I get a final certificate even if a claim has been filed?

Pursuant to Superior Court, Probate Division Rule 427(d), the Register of Wills may only issue a final certificate if all claims have been released.

Other Questions - Can I sue a personal representative appointed in a foreign estate in Washington, D.C.?

In general, a foreign personal representative may sue and may be sued in DC pursuant to DC Code, sec. 20-342. You may file suit in DC against a foreign personal representative if the foreign personal representative has actual knowledge of a claim barred in another jurisdiction that does not rise to the level of a "final judgment" under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. See Richard v. McGreevy, 136 DWLR 170 at pp. 1917-1919 (DC 9/2/08.) However, please consult with your counsel regarding issues of appropriate jurisdiction prior to filing suit against a foreign personal representative.

Other Questions - How can I find out if any claims have been filed?

Review the contents of the case file (also called jacket) at Court, or review the docket in the Court’s Courtview system or from your home computer via Court Cases Online(CCO).

Other Questions - How can I find out what the last day that claims may be filed is?

The last day that claims can be filed is six months from the first date of publication of the Notice of Appointment of Foreign Personal Representative and Notice to Creditors. The first date of publication of the notice is on the bottom left side of the notice, a copy of which is given to the filer when the foreign estate is opened, is kept in the Court file, often called the jacket, and is visible as an image on the Court’s Courtview computer system available at public access terminals in the Probate Division.

Other Questions - Is a personal representative appointed by the Court in a foreign estate? Are letters of administration issued in a foreign estate?

The Superior Court does not appoint a personal representative in a foreign estate and does not issue letters of administration. Rather, it recognizes the appointment made in the other state.

Other Questions - What do I do as a foreign personal representative if a claim is filed?

You should file the Notice of Action Taken on Claim form indicating whether you are going to pay the claim in full, deny the claim, or pay the claim in part. Please be advised that in its decision on Estate of Francisco Coll Monge, 2000 FEP 108, the DC Court of Appeals determined that all creditors known to a personal representative have the same rights established under DC Code, sec. 20-343(d), whether the claim has been filed in the foreign estate proceeding in the District of Columbia or whether the claim has been filed in the original probate estate established for the decedent in the other state or jurisdiction. Accordingly, please consult with your attorney regarding any questions as to payment of a claim filed in a foreign estate proceeding.