D.C. Estates, Trusts, and Probate Law Digest: A One-of-a-Kind Resource

By Jeffery Leon

June 16, 2016

Winning the Bar Project of the Year Award at the Celebration of Leadership on June 15 is the District of Columbia Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Digest, a digital version of the long-running digest, which records the opinions and orders of cases in the Probate Division of the D.C. Superior Court. The D.C. Bar Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section, in collaboration with the D.C. Register of Wills, embarked on this project to update the Digest for the first time in more than a decade. Laurel Lea, a member of the subcommittee responsible for the Digest's update, provides background on the project and shares her reaction to winning the award.

Could you give me a bit of background on the Digest?

Until 1992, practitioners had been faithfully digesting D.C. probate cases in administration, estates, guardianship, and more. However, by the mid-1990s the Digest had fallen by the wayside. It was very helpful for practitioners out in the field to have a sense of what the judges were thinking, where things were going, or how they might rule on a certain case. This update came out of the Register of Wills' Office and the D.C. Bar Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section, it was their brainchild, and they determined it would be a good idea to resurrect the Digest. We formed a subcommittee and that's when I got involved. It took years to first come up with a good table of contents, then going back and looking through every case and order produced since the 1990s. The subcommittee did gobs of work, as every case had two reviews, and we put together the Digest, and in a digital format. The D.C. Bar was super helpful in getting it published.

What were the highlights and challenges of putting together this project?

For me, a highlight was having a great introduction to the steering committee of the Estates, Trusts, and Probate Law Section and to becoming more involved in the section. It was also a great opportunity to get to meet other practitioners. I did a lot of the digesting myself, and it was helpful to actually get to sift through a lot of orders and cases that I wouldn't have otherwise had a chance to read. As for challenges, it's just the sheer volume of cases and work. You're working with volunteers, and an enormous amount of time is required for all of us to read these cases and put together a description of them. That was a major challenge.

This was a big accomplishment for the committee?

Yes, and I'm most proud of the fact that we got it done! It's a great resource for practitioners and the public, and we've had a positive response from people about how the Digest is a helpful and easy way to learn about D.C. law.

How does it feel to be honored?

It's fantastic. Knowing that there was so much work put into this Digest for years and having it recognized is a real treat. Anne Meister and Krista Robertson at the Register of Wills Office, the Probate Division of the D.C. Superior Court, deserve special mention, and so do all the members of the subcommittee who worked on the Digest. I'm so pleased that everyone was able to dedicate a lot of time to it, and now we have this great resource for all the practitioners in our area.