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How Do You Make a Valid Will in D.C.?

By:  Jeffrey H. Skatoff, Esq.

To make a valid will in Washington D.C. the will must be:

  1. In writing;
  2. Signed by the testator;
  3. Attested and subscribed by at least two credible witnesses.


The requirements for the execution and attestation of a valid will in D.C. are found in D.C. Code § 18-103.

Who Can Make a Valid Will In D.C.?

A person has capacity to make a valid will in D.C. if the person is at least 18 years of age, and, at the time of executing or acknowledging the will, of sound and disposing mind and capable of executing a valid deed or contract.  D.C. Code § 18-102.

Generally, to have capacity to make a valid will under D.C. law, the testator must be familiar with the general amount and nature of their assets, with their family and friends, who they want to receive their assets, and how they want to distribute their assets.

A D.C. Will Must Be Signed

To be valid, a D.C. Will is required to be signed “by the testator, or by another person in his presence and by his express direction.” D.C. Code § 18-103.

If a D.C. testator is unable to physically sign his or her will, D.C. law permits the testator to direct another person to sign the will for the testator.  The other person must sign the will in the testator’s presence.

Section 18-103 includes amendments by emergency legislation that will expire on September 5, 2021, permitting signature in electronic presence as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Witness Requirements For a Valid D.C. Will

A D.C. will must also be attested and subscribed by two credible witnesses in the presence of the testator.  D.C. Code § 18-103.

An interested witness to a D.C. will is someone who benefits from the will, whether through a devise or a power of appointment.  Any gift to an interested witness is void as to that witness and those persons claiming under him.  D.C. Code § 18-104.  Two exceptions exist to this rule.

First, where an interested witness would be entitled to a share of the estate in case the will or codicil was not established, he or persons claiming under him can take such portion of the devise or bequest made to him in the will or codicil that does not exceed the share of the estate which would be distributed to him or persons claiming under him in case of intestacy.

Second, the voidance of the bequest to an interested witness does not apply to charges on real estate for the payment of debts.

Does a D.C. Will Have To Be Notarized To Be Valid?

No.  There is no requirement that a D.C. will must be notarized in order to be valid.

Consulting with a D.C. probate lawyer is the best way to make sure that your will is valid and carries out your testamentary wishes.