Code of the District of Columbia

Chapter 1. General Provisions.


§ 18–101. Definitions.

As used in this title, unless the context requires a different meaning:

words importing the singular include the plural, and words importing the plural include the singular;

the present tense includes the future as well as the present;

“District Court” means the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; and

“Probate Court” and “court”, respectively, mean the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 685, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 566, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 147(1); June 4, 1982, D.C. Law 4-111, § 2(c), 29 DCR 1684.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-101.

1973 Ed., § 18-101.

Editor's Notes

Section 30 of D.C. Law 15-354 provided that Title 18 is designated Title 18 of the District of Columbia Official Code.


§ 18–102. Capacity to make a will.

A will, testament, or codicil is not valid for any purpose unless the person making it is at least 18 years of age and, at the time of executing or acknowledging it as provided by this chapter, of sound and disposing mind and capable of executing a valid deed or contract.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 686, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-75, § 4(a), 23 DCR 1180.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-102.

1973 Ed., § 18-102.


§ 18–103. Execution of written will; attestation.

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by temporary legislation that will expire on February 4, 2022. To view the text of this section after the expiration of all emergency and temporary legislation affecting this section, click this link: Permanent Version.*

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by emergency legislation that will expire on October 22, 2021. To view the text of this section after the expiration of all emergency and temporary legislation, click this link: Permanent Version.*

A will or testament, other than a will executed in the manner provided by section 18-107 , is void unless it is:

(1) in writing and signed by the testator, or by another person in his presence and by his express direction; and

(2) attested and subscribed in the presence or, during the period from March 11, 2020, until November 5, 2021, the electronic presence, as defined in § 18-813(a)(2), of the testator, by at least two credible witnesses.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 686, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; June 24, 2021, D.C. Law 24-9, § 811(b), 68 DCR 004824; July 24, 2021, D.C. Act 24-125, § 3(gg)(1), 68 DCR 007342.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-103.

1973 Ed., § 18-103.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-1001.06a, § 18-105, and § 18-109.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 3(gg)(1) of Public Emergency Extension and Eviction and Utility Moratorium Phasing Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-125, July 24, 2021, 68 DCR 007342).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 811(b) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-96, June 7, 2021, 68 DCR 006025).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 811(b) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-30, Mar. 17, 2021, 68 DCR 003101).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 811(b) of Coronavirus Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-405, Aug. 19, 2020, 67 DCR 10235).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see Chapter 1(b) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-328, June 8, 2020, 67 DCR 7598).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see Chapter 1(b) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-326, May 27, 2020, 67 DCR 7045).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 811(b) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Law 24-9, June 24, 2021, 68 DCR 004824).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 811(b) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Law 23-130, Oct. 9, 2020, 67 DCR 8622).


§ 18–104. Devises, legacies, etc., to attesting witnesses.

(a) A beneficial devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or power of appointment of or affecting real or personal estate, given or made to an attesting witness to a will or codicil is void as to him and persons claiming under him, except as provided by subsections (b) and (c) of this section.

(b) Where an interested witness to a will or codicil, referred to in subsection (a) of this section, would be entitled to a share of the estate of the testator in case the will or codicil were not established, he or persons claiming under him shall take such portion of the devise or bequest made to him in the will or codicil as does not exceed the share of the estate which would be distributed to him or persons claiming under him in case of intestacy.

(c) The voidance provided for by subsection (a) of this section does not apply to charges on real estate for the payment of debts.

(d) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, an interested witness referred to therein, whether an heir at law or not, is not disqualified as a competent witness to the execution of the will or codicil by reason of his interest.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 686, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-104.

1973 Ed., § 18-104.


§ 18–105. Retention or demand of void devise or legacy by attesting witness prohibited.

A person to whom a beneficial devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or power of appointment is given or made in a will or codicil, which is void under section 18-103 , may not, in any manner or under any color or pretense whatsoever:

(1) demand or take possession of or receive any profits or benefit of or from the devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or power of appointment so given or made; or

(2) demand, receive, or accept from another person the beneficial devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift, or power of appointment or any satisfaction or compensation therefor.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 686, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-105.

1973 Ed., § 18-105.


§ 18–106. Creditors as competent witnesses.

A mere charge in a will or codicil on the estate of a testator for the payment of debts does not disqualify a creditor from being a competent witness to the will or codicil.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 686, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-106.

1973 Ed., § 18-106.


§ 18–107. Nuncupative wills.

A nuncupative will made after January 1, 1902, is not valid in the District of Columbia except that a person in actual military or naval service or a mariner at sea may dispose of his personal property by word of mouth, if:

(1) his oral disposition of the property is proved by at least two witnesses who were present at the making thereof and were requested by the testator to bear witness that the disposition was his last will; and

(2) the will is made during the time of the last illness of the deceased; and

(3) the substance of the will is reduced to writing within 10 days after it was made.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 686, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-107.

1973 Ed., § 18-107.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 18-103 and § 18-109.


§ 18–108. Execution of power by will.

An appointment made by will in the exercise of a power is not valid unless it is so executed that it would be valid for the disposition of the property to which the power applies if it belonged to the testator.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 687, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-108.

1973 Ed., § 18-108.


§ 18–109. Revocation of wills; revival.

(a) A will or codicil, or a part thereof, may not be revoked, except by implication of law, otherwise than by

(1) a later will, codicil, or other writing declaring the revocation, executed as provided by section 18-103 or 18-107; or

(2) burning, tearing, cancelling, or obliterating the will or codicil, or the part thereof, with the intention of revoking it, by the testator himself, or by a person in his presence and by his express direction and consent.

(b) A will or codicil, or a part thereof, after it is revoked, may not be revived otherwise than by its re-execution, or by a codicil executed as provided in the case of wills, and then only to the extent to which an intention to revive is shown.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 687, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-109.

1973 Ed., § 18-109.

Editor's Notes

Application of dower rights to husband and wife: Section 3 of the Act of September 14, 1965, provided: “Effective Mar. 15, 1962, all provisions of the Act entitled ‘An Act to establish a code of law for the District of Columbia’, approved Mar. 3, 1901, as amended, and all other laws in force in the District of Columbia, relating to the right of dower and its incidents, apply to both husband and wife.”


§ 18–110. Opening will before delivery to Probate Court.

A person having possession or custody of a testamentary instrument may, after the death of the testator, open and read it in the presence of near relatives of the deceased, who may conveniently have notice thereof, and of other persons, and immediately thereafter may deliver the will or codicil to the Probate Court or the Register of Wills, until proceedings may be held for the purpose of proving it or other action is taken thereon.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 687, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-110.

1973 Ed., § 18-110.


§ 18–111. Withholding will.

Whoever, having possession of a testamentary instrument, willfully neglects, for the period of 90 days after the death of the testator becomes known to him, to deliver it to the Probate Court, or to the Register of Wills, or to an executor named in the instrument, shall be fined not more than $500.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 687, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-111.

1973 Ed., § 18-111.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 6-1071, § 47-368.06, and § 50-2303.04a.


§ 18–112. Taking and carrying away, or destroying, mutilating, or secreting will.

Whoever, during the life or after the death of the testator, for a fraudulent purpose, takes and carries away, or destroys, mutilates, or secretes, a testamentary instrument, shall be imprisoned not more than five years. In addition to any other penalty provided under this section, a person may be fined an amount not more than the amount set forth in [§ 22-3571.01].


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 687, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 301, 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 18-112.

1973 Ed., § 18-112.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 added the last sentence.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 301 of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) creation of § 18-113, see § 811(c) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Law 23-130, Oct. 9, 2020, 67 DCR 8622).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 18–113. Electronic wills.

*NOTE: This section was created by temporary legislation that will expire on February 4, 2022.*

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by emergency legislation that will expire on October 22, 2021. To view the text of the temporary legislation, click this link: Temporary Version.*

(a) For the purposes of this section, the term:

(1) "Electronic" means relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or similar capabilities.

(2) "Electronic presence" means when one or more witnesses are in a different physical location than the testator but can observe and communicate with the testator and one another to the same extent as if the witnesses and testator were physically present with one another.

(3) "Electronic will" means a will or codicil executed by electronic means.

(4) "Record" means information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.

(5) "Sign" means, with present intent to authenticate or adopt a record, to:

(A) Execute or adopt a tangible symbol; or

(B) Affix to or associate with the record an electronic signature.

(b)(1) A validly executed electronic will shall be a record that is:

(A) Readable as text at the time of signing pursuant to subparagraph (B) of this paragraph; and

(B) Signed:

(i) By the testator, or by another person in the testator's physical presence and by the testator's express direction; and

(ii) In the physical or electronic presence of the testator by at least 2 credible witnesses, each of whom is physically located in the United States at the time of signing.

(2) In order for the electronic will to be admitted to the Probate Court, the testator, a witness to the will, or an attorney admitted to practice in the District of Columbia who supervised the execution of the electronic will shall certify a paper copy of the electronic will by affirming under penalty of perjury that:

(A) The paper copy of the electronic will is a complete, true, and accurate copy of the electronic will; and

(B) The conditions in paragraph (1) of this subsection were satisfied at the time the electronic will was signed.

(3) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a certified paper copy of an electronic will shall be deemed to be the electronic will of the testator for all purposes under this title.

(c)(1) An electronic will may revoke all or part of a previous will or electronic will.

(2) An electronic will, or a part thereof, is revoked by:

(A) A subsequent will or electronic will that revokes the electronic will, or a part thereof, expressly or by inconsistency; or

(B) A direct physical act cancelling the electronic will, or a part thereof, with the intention of revoking it, by the testator or a person in the testator's physical presence and by the testator's express direction and consent.

(3) After it is revoked, an electronic will, or a part thereof, may not be revived other than by its re-execution, or by a codicil executed as provided in the case of wills or electronic wills, and then only to the extent to which an intention to revive is shown in the codicil.

(d) An electronic will not in compliance with subsection (b)(1) of this section is valid if executed in compliance with the law of the jurisdiction where the testator is:

(1) Physically located when the electronic will is signed; or

(2) Domiciled or resides when the electronic will is signed or when the testator dies.

(e) Except as otherwise provided in this section:

(1) An electronic will is a will for all purposes under the laws of the District of Columbia; and

(2) The laws of the District of Columbia applicable to wills and principles of equity apply to an electronic will.

(f) This section shall apply to electronic wills made during the period from March 11, 2020, until November 5, 2021.


(June 24, 2021, D.C. Law 24-9, § 811(c), 68 DCR 004824; July 24, 2021, D.C. Act 24-125, § 3(gg)(2), 68 DCR 007342.)

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 3(gg)(2) of Public Emergency Extension and Eviction and Utility Moratorium Phasing Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-125, July 24, 2021, 68 DCR 007342).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see § 811(c) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-96, June 7, 2021, 68 DCR 006025).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see § 811(c) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-30, Mar. 17, 2021, 68 DCR 003101).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see Chapter 1(c) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-328, June 8, 2020, 67 DCR 7598).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see Chapter 1(c) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-326, May 27, 2020, 67 DCR 7045).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) creation of this section, see § 811(c) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Law 24-9, June 24, 2021, 68 DCR 004824).