District of Columbia Restrictions on Who Can Serve as Executor

Learn the rules about who can be your personal representative in D.C.

One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor -- sometimes called a “personal representative” in the District of Columbia. After your death, your executor’s primary job is to protect your property until any debts and taxes have been paid, and then transfer what’s left to those who are entitled to it.

Every state has some rules about who may serve as the executor of an estate that goes through probate. Here are the requirements in the District of Columbia.

Basic Requirements for Serving as a District of Columbia Executor

Your executor must be:

  • at least 18 years old
  • a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and
  • of sound mind -- that is, not judged incapacitated by a court.

Many states prohibit people who have felony convictions from serving as executor. In the District of Columbia, you cannot name an executor who has been convicted and “not pardoned on the basis of innocence” of a felony in Washington, D.C. or any state, unless the sentence imposed for the crime expired at least ten years ago.

(D.C. Code Ann. § 20-303.)

Special Rules for Executors in the District of Columbia

In addition to the restrictions above, a District of Columbia probate court will reject a potential executor who is a judge of any court in the United States or an employee of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, or the District of Columbia Court System, unless this person is your surviving spouse, domestic partner, or a relative within the third degree of kinship. For example, an employee of the D.C. Court of Appeals who is also your granddaughter would be eligible to serve as your executor.

Furthermore, the court will not appoint someone to serve as your executor if he or she has filed a written declaration with the Probate Register declining to serve in the position.

(D.C. Code Ann. § 20-303.)

District of Columbia Restrictions on Out-of-State Executors

For practical reasons, it’s smart to name an executor who lives near you. Your executor may have to handle day-to-day matters for weeks, months, or sometimes longer. If you must appoint an executor who lives far away, you should know the requirements the District of Columbia imposes on out-of-state executors.

In the District of Columbia, a nonresident executor must file an irrevocable power of attorney appointing the Probate Register as agent to accept legal papers. (D.C. Code Ann. § 20-303.)

Learn More

If you want to know more about an executor’s duties and responsibilities in the District of Columbia, the Office of the Register of Wills offers a Guide to Probate in the District of Columbia.

For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Will ssection of Nolo.com.

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