Chances are, most Maryland residents don’t think about estate and probate administration – until they have to. The topics inevitably come up after a friend or a loved one has died – and then there are more questions than answers
One reason for the confusion is that there is more than one type of probate here. If no one challenges the Will, it goes through administrative probate. If it is contested, it goes through judicial probate. The former is conducted through the Register of Wills Office, and the latter is conducted through the Orphan’s Court for the applicable county. In either case, a Will must be admitted to probate to be effective.
Keep reading to learn more.
Opening an estate
Under Maryland law, the person who finds the original Last Will and Testament, or Will and any existing codicils made by someone who has passed away, must file it with the correct Register of Wills Office. In this context, the “correct” office is the one for the county where the person had established permanent residence and was residing at the time of his or her death.
Certain paperwork is also required to “open” an estate. The two most important forms are, Petition for Administration (Form 1112) and Schedule A (Form 1136). These forms specify:
- Where the person who passed away established permanent residence and resided at the time of his or her death;
- Reason the petitioner (person submitting the request) is legally entitled to be appointed the personal representative;
- Whether the decedent had a Will when he or she died (if the decedent died with a Will, the original must be included with the petition);
- The eligibility of the petitioner to serve as personal representative; and
- An estimate of the probate assets and debts of the estate.
Additional paperwork may be required depending on the type of estate and other circumstances. Accordingly, the Register of Wills Office recommends consulting with a probate deputy before coming to the office. Arranging an appointment to open an estate is also highly recommended.
Letters of administration
In addition to opening an estate, the Register of Wills may appoint a personal representative to carry out certain duties with respect to the estate The personal representative can only exercise his or her powers in this context after the Register of Wills has issued a Letter of Administration.
The appointment of the personal representative is done in accordance with state law. Once someone is name to this role, the Register of Wills office will provide information regarding mandatory filing deadlines.
Responsibilities of the personal representative
The personal representative is mainly responsible for taking stock of the belongings that comprise the estate. Specifically, he or she is responsible for organizing inventories and appraisals as required by law. He or she is also responsible for providing any additional information required to facilitate the distribution of the deceased’s assets.
Such assets are usually distributed after payment of relevant expenses. These typically include administration costs, funeral costs inheritance taxes, and other debts of the decedent according to the Will. If the decedent didn’t have a Will, the decedent’s property is distributed to the decedent’s relatives (if any) as set forth in state laws.
Summing it up
The process we detailed here is used in administrative probate of a regular estate. A regular estate is defined as one with a total value exceeding $50,000 – unless the only beneficiary is a spouse. In that case, a regular estate can also be defined as one with a total value exceeding $100,000. On the other hand, a small estate is one with a total value of no more than $50,000.
As we have noted, the process may vary based on the size of the estate, whether the Will is contested, whether the property is even subject to probate and so forth. Therefore, it is crucial to speak with a qualified Maryland estate planning or probate lawyer. Contact us to schedule a consultation, today at (301) 576-6200.