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SEC. 27. If any person in whose possession or custody a will shall be, after the death of a testator, shall wilfully neglect to deliver the same to the register of wills for the space of three months after the testator's death shall be known to him, the person so offending shall be subject, on conviction in the criminal court, to such fine as the court, in its discretion, shall think proper, not exceeding the sum of five hundred dollars; and may, moreover, be imprisoned in close custody until he shall produce such will in court, or shall cause it to be delivered to some executor therein named, or to the register of wills.
SEC. 28. Any person having the custody of a will may, after the death of a testator, open and read the same in the presence of any near relatives of the deceased who may conveniently have notice thereof, and of other persons; and immediately thereafter he shall deliver the same to the register of wills, whose duty it shall be to keep it safe until proceedings may be had for proving it.
SEC. 29. Wills relating to real or personal property, or both, may be proved, as hereinafter directed, before the orphans' court; and the probate of a will devising real estate shall be conclusive as to the due execution of the will, in like manner as the probate of a will of personal estate.
SEC. 30. When a will relative to property within this District has been proved without it, an authenticated copy of the same, and the certificate of probate thereof, may be offered for probate in this District. The judge of the orphans' court shall presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the will was duly executed, and admitted to probate as a will of personal property in the State or country of the testator's domicil, and shall admit such copy to probate as a will of personalty in this District; and if it appear from such copy that the will was proved in the foreign court of probate to have been so executed as to be a valid will of lands in this District, by the laws thereof, such copy may be admitted to probate as a will of real estate.
SEC. 31. When any will, or any such authenticated copy, is offered for probate, and a witness attesting the same resides out of this District, or, though in the same, is unable, from sickness, age, or other infirmity, to attend the orphans' court, the judge thereof may cause a commission to take his deposition to issue, annexed to said will, or copy, and directed to any person authorized by law to take
depositions in other cases, or to a person specially named therein. The deposition of such witness shall be taken and certified, as in other cases, except that no notice need be given of the time and place of taking the same, unless it be in a case in which the probate is opposed by some person who has made himself a party, and the proof so given shall have the same effect as if it had been given in the orphans' court.
SEC. 32. Any person offering, or intending to offer, to the orphans' court, a will for probate, may obtain from the register process directed to the marshal of the District, requiring him to summon any person interested in the probate to appear in court by a certain day, named in the summons, not less than five days after the service thereof, to show cause why the said will should not be admitted to probate; or notice to parties interested, of the application for probate, and the time for hearing the same, may be given through some newspaper of the District, designated by the court, by publication therein twice a week for three successive weeks; the first publication to be twenty days, at least, before the time so assigned.
SEC. 33. The orphans' court may assign a guardian ad litem to any person so interested who is an infant or insane.
SEC. 34. When all the persons interested in such probate shall be properly convened by such summons, order of publication, or assignment of guardian, or shall otherwise appear as parties, the court shall proceed to hear the application for such probate, and its order thereon shall be final, subject only to an appeal to the circuit court.
SEC. 35. The orphans' court may, however, without summoning any party, or giving other notice to them, proceed to probate, and admit the will to record, or reject the same. But after an order, under this section, a person interested, who was not a party to the proceeding, may, within five years, proceed in the circuit court to impeach or establish the will; on which a trial by jury may be ordered, to ascertain whether any, and, if any, how much of what was so offered for probate is the will of the deceased. If no such proceeding be instituted within that time, the order shall be forever binding.
SEC. 36. The preceding section is subject to this proviso, that any person interested, who, at the time of the order, is within the age of twenty-one years, or is insane, may proceed, as aforesaid, to impeach or establish the will within one year after such disability shall cease;
and any person who shall have been proceeded against by publication may, unless he was personally summoned, or actually appeared as a party, so proceed within two years after such order.
SEC. 37. The record of what is proved or deposed in court by witnesses, on the motion to admit a will to probate and record in the orphans' court, and any depositions lawfully taken out of court, on such motion, may, on such trial, if the witnesses cannot be produced, be admitted as evidence.
SEC. 38. The judge of the orphans' court shall, in all cases, examine, on oath, every executor, or other person, offering a will for probate, as to the manner in which the same came to his hand, and whether or not he knows of any other.
SEC. 39. Every will, or authenticated copy, so admitted to probate, shall be recorded by the register, and shall remain in his office, except during such time as the same shall be taken to another court under a subpoena duces tecum.
SEC. 40. The title of a purchaser, in good faith and for a valuable consideration, from the heirs at law of any person who shall have died owning real estate in this District, shall not he defeated or impaired by virtue of any devise made by such person of the real estate so purchased, unless the will containing the same shall have been duly proved, and recorded in the office of the register, within four years after the death of the testator; except:
1. When it shall appear that the will containing such devise shall have been concealed by the heirs of such testator; or,
2. When, at the time of the testator's death, the devisee shall have been within the age of twenty-one years or insane. In which several cases the limitation contained in this section shall not commence until such will shall have been delivered to the devisee or his representative, or to the executor, or orphans' court, or until such disability shall have been removed.
SEC. 41. The term will, as used in this chapter, shall include all codicils as well as wills.
SEC. 42. The provisions of this chapter in relation to the jurisdiction of the probate of wills, and the proceedings thereon, and effect of same, shall apply as well to wills already made as to those hereafter to be made; but those provisions relating to the execution, revocation, and construction of wills, shall apply only to wills hereafter made,
and to such wills as are already made by a testator who shall be alive at the expiration of one year from the time this chapter shall take effect. The validity and effect of other wills shall be determined by the laws in force immediately before this chapter takes effect, in the like manner as if those laws had not been repealed.
Title by administration, and of the settlement of the estates of deceased persons.
CHAPTER 53. Of letters testamentary.
CHAPTER 54. Of letters of administration.
CHAPTER 55. Of letters of collection.
CHAPTER 56. Of the inventory and list of debts.
CHAPTER 57. Of sales of assets by administrators and payment of debts of deceased.
CHAPTER 59. Miscellaneous provisions relative to administration.
SECTION 1. When any will shall have been proved or authenticated, as herein before provided, letters testamentary may forthwith be granted by the orphans' court to the executor named in the will, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
SEC. 2. Letters testamentary shall not be granted to a person named as executor who, at the time when administration ought to be granted, shall be under the age of eighteen years, or of unsound mind, incapable by law of making a contract, or shall stand convicted of any crime rendering him infamous, or shall not be a citizen of the United States.
SEC. 3. No question respecting the qualifications of an executor shall be determined unless he be summoned, if within the District, or, if without the same, notice be given him by advertisement or otherwise, as the court may direct.
SEC. 4. A transcript of the record of conviction shall be evidence to prove the party infamous.
SEC. 5. When any person named as executor is alleged not to be a citizen of the United States, his citizenship shall not be established otherwise than by a certificate, under the seal of the office or court where the party was naturalized, or by competent testimony that he is a natural born citizen of the United States.
SEC. 6. The unsoundness of mind of a party named as executor shall be conclusively established by the inquisition of a jury, on a writ issued by the circuit court, finding him an idiot, lunatic, or non compos mentis, and confirmed by the said court; and if such inquisition shall not have been had, at the time when letters ought to be granted, the circuit or orphans' court may, on the petition of any person interested, grant a writ de lunatico inquirendo; and the finding of the jury as above provided, on being returned to and confirmed by the court issuing the same, shall be conclusive against the party. A certificate from the clerk of the circuit court, under seal, stating the substance of the proceedings, shall be evidence in the orphans' court.
SEC. 7. Every person named in a will as executor shall be presumed to be eighteen years of age until the contrary is proved.
SEC. 8. No married woman shall be entitled to letters testamentary, unless her husband shall give bond, as is hereinafter required of executors, for the faithful performance of her duties.