District of Columbia Intestacy Laws

The following are excerpts from the District of Columbia’s intestacy laws. Please reference the full body of the District of Columbia Decedents’ Estates and Fiduciary Relations Code presented by the Council of the District of Columbia for any changes to those laws that may not be reflected below.

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District of Columbia Intestate Laws

19-301. Course of descents generally
The real estate in the District of Columbia, of a deceased person, male or female, if not devised, shall descend in fee simple, and the surplus of the personal estate of a deceased resident of the District, if not bequeathed, shall be distributed, to the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, children, and other persons in the manner provided by this chapter. The heirs specified by this section take the real estate as tenants in common in the same proportions as they take the surplus personal estate as provided by this chapter.

19-302. Share of spouse or domestic partner
The intestate share of a decedent’s surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner is:
(1) The entire intestate estate, if no descendant or parent of the decedent survives the decedent;
(2) Two-thirds of any balance of the intestate estate, if the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner and there is no other descendant of the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner who survives the decedent;
(3) Three-fourths of any balance of the intestate estate, if no descendant of the decedent survives the decedent, but a parent of the decedent survives the decedent;
(4) One-half of any balance of the intestate estate, if all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner and the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner has one or more surviving descendants who are not descendants of the decedent; or
(5) One-half of any balance of the intestate estate, if one or more of the decedent’s surviving descendants are not descendants of the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner.

19-305. Distribution of surplus after payment to surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner
The surplus, above the share of the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, or the whole surplus, when there is no surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner, descends and is distributed as provided by this chapter and by section 19-701.

19-306. Children to share equally
When the intestate leaves children and no other descendants, the surplus is divided equally among them.

19-307. Grandchildren’s share
(a) Subject to subsection (b) of this section, and to section 19-319, when the intestate leaves a child and a child of a deceased child, the child of the deceased child takes such share as his deceased parent would, if living, be entitled to, and every other descendant in existence at the death of the intestate stands in the place of his deceased ancestor.
(b) Those in equal degree claiming in the place of an ancestor take equal shares.

19-308. Share of father and mother
When the intestate leaves no child, or descendant, the whole is divided equally between the father and mother or their survivor.

19-309. Share of brother or sister or their descendants
When the intestate leaves a brother or sister, or child or descendant of a brother or sister, and no child, descendant, or father or mother, the brother, sister, or child or descendant of a brother or sister is entitled to the whole.

19-310. Brothers and sisters to share equally
Each brother and sister of the intestate is entitled to an equal share, and the children or descendants of a brother or sister of the intestate, stand in the place of their deceased parents respectively.





19-311. Share of collateral relations
After children, descendants, parents, brothers, and sisters of the deceased and their descendants, all collateral relations in equal degree share, and representation among the collaterals is not allowed.

19-312. Share of grandfather and grandmother
The grandparents, or such of them as survive, share alike where there are no collaterals.

19-313. Death of distributee before distribution
When a person entitled to distribution dies before the distribution is made, his share goes to his estate or legal representatives.

19-314. Share of posthumous children
A right in the inheritance to real or personal property does not accrue to or vest in a person other than the children of the intestate and their descendants, unless the person is in being and capable in law to take as heir or distributee at the time of the intestate’s death; but a child or descendant of the intestate born after the death of the intestate has the same right of inheritance as if born before his death.

19-315. No distinction between whole- and half-blood
There is no distinction between the kindred of the whole- and the half-blood.

19-316. Share of children born out of wedlock; their heirs; mother; father
Children born out of wedlock and the heirs of children born out of wedlock are capable of taking real and personal estate by inheritance from their mother or from their father if parenthood has been established, or from each other, or from heirs of each other, as the case may be, in like manner as if born in lawful wedlock, and the mother and such father, and their respective heirs, are capable of inheriting from such children.

19-318. Antenuptial children
When a man has a child by a woman whom he afterwards marries, the child, if acknowledged by the man, is, in virtue of the marriage and acknowledgment, legitimated and capable in law of inheriting and transmitting heritable property as if born in wedlock.

19-319. Advancements
(a) If a child or descendant has been advanced by the intestate during the intestate’s lifetime, by settlement or portion, real estate or personal estate, the value thereof is reckoned for the purposes of descent and distribution as part of the estate of the intestate descendible and to be divided among his heirs or distributed to his distributees. Where the advancement is equal to or greater than a share, the child or descendant is excluded from any further share in the estate of the intestate and is not liable to refund any part of the amount so advanced; but the surviving spouse has no advantage by bringing the advancement into reckoning. Where the advancement is less than a share, the child or descendant receives so much, only, of the personal estate, and inherits so much, only, of the real estate, of the intestate, as is sufficient to make all the shares of all the children in the whole property, including the advancement, equal. The value of real or personal estate so advanced shall be estimated according to the worth thereof when given. Maintenance or education of a child or descendant, or giving him money or real estate, without a view to a portion or settlement in life, is not an advancement.
(b) Where an advancement to be adjusted, as provided by subsection (a) of this section, consisted of real estate, the adjustment shall be made out of the real estate descendible to the heirs. Where the advancement was in personal estate, the adjustment shall be made out of the surplus of the personal estate to be distributed to the distributees. Where either species of estate is insufficient to enable the adjustment to be fully made, the deficiency shall be adjusted out of the other.

19-320. Felonious homicide as barring inheritance; insurance policies; bona fide purchasers
(a) A person convicted of felonious homicide of another person, by way of murder or manslaughter, takes no estate or interest in property of any kind from that other person by way of:
(1) inheritance, distribution, devise, or bequest; or
(2) remainder, reversion, or executory devise dependent upon the death of the other person.
The estate, interest, or property to which the person so convicted would have succeeded or would have taken in any way from or after the death of the decedent goes, instead, as if the person so convicted had died before the decedent.
(b) Policies of insurance directly or indirectly procured by a person convicted as specified by subsection (a) of this section, for his own benefit or payable to him upon the life of the person killed by him, are void.
(c) This section does not affect the rights of bona fide purchasers of property specified by subsection (a) of this section, for value and without notice.

19-322. Definitions
For the purposes of this chapter, the term “domestic partner” shall have the same meaning as provided in 32-701(3).

19-502. Requirement of survival by 120 hours under probate laws
(a) Except as provided in section 19-506, if the title to property, the devolution of property, the right to elect an interest in property, or the right to exempt property, homestead or family allowance depends upon an individual’s survivorship of the death of another individual, an individual who is not established by clear and convincing evidence to have survived the other individual by 120 hours is deemed to have predeceased the other individual.
(b) This section does not apply if its application would result in a taking of intestate estate by the District of Columbia.

19-701. Escheatment generally
(a) Where there is no surviving spouse, surviving domestic partner, or relations of the intestate within the fifth degree, reckoned by counting down from the common ancestor to the more remote, the surplus of real and personal property escheats to the District of Columbia to be used by the Mayor of the District of Columbia for the benefit of the poor. All cash, including real or personal property reduced to cash, received or obtained by the District pursuant to this section shall be transferred at regular intervals to the Department of Human Services for uses consistent with the emergency assistance grants described in 4-753.01(e).
(b) For the purposes of this section, the term “domestic partner” shall have the same meaning as provided in 32-701(3).