Probate in Maryland

Probate in Maryland

The probate process can be complicated and confusing even if you have a will. This is especially true if you also deal with other legal issues like divorce or personal injury lawsuits. You need to probate an estate if the value of the estate assets is more than the debts owed by the deceased. You can also file a Small Estate if the assets are less than $50,000.

While planning and drafting a will is always preferable, sometimes life doesn’t allow it. If this is the case for you or a loved one who has passed away without leaving behind a will or trust document, here is what you need to know about navigating probate in Maryland:

What Is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of administering a person’s estate after death. The probate process includes the following:

  • Identifying and inventorying the decedent’s assets
  • Paying debts and taxes owed by the decedent
  • Distributing remaining assets according to the terms of their last will or trust

According to a government website, if one dies without a will in Maryland, and if there are just the spouse and minor children, both share the assets.

The Different Types of Probate Process

Probate is necessary to ensure that an estate is distributed according to the will’s instructions and determine who is responsible for paying any debts or taxes the deceased person owes.

Probate can be done through a formal court proceeding, but it’s more common for someone named executor in your will to handle all these tasks on your behalf instead. Suppose you don’t name anyone as executor in your Maryland estate plan. In that case, someone else has to step up, and if no one does so within six months after your death, then probate proceedings will be initiated automatically by state law anyway.

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If you don’t want to go through the process, there is also a way to avoid it. To learn how to avoid probate in Maryland, you can read online resources for help. But according to Thienel Law, a group of lawyers working in estate planning for over 20 years, one of the best ways to avoid probate in Maryland is to create a revocable trust.

An article from the Thienel Law website states that you can create a revocable trust and then change it based on the situation life throws at you. When you create a trust, the assets mentioned in it will get distributed according to its terms and not the will. This means you won’t have to go through the probate process.

Understanding the Intestate Succession Laws in Maryland

You may have heard about intestate succession laws. These rules determine how your property will be distributed if you die without a will. Intestacy laws vary from state to state and can significantly affect how your estate is divided among family members, friends, or charities.

Share of surviving spouse is an intestate law in Maryland. If you’re married but don’t leave any children behind, half of your assets go directly to your spouse without going through probate court first, even if there’s no will. So even though the surviving spouse has complete control over the assets during life, he/she won’t necessarily have full control after death unless at least one child is involved in this scenario.

Appointing an Administrator

You may appoint a person to act as your administrator. The person you choose must be 18 or older, and they can’t be related to you by blood or marriage. You can also name an alternate administrator in case your first choice cannot serve for some reason. To appoint someone as an administrator, fill out this form and give it to them.

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Once appointed, the new administrator must provide notice of their appointment within 30 days of being named by posting notices at three different places. These places include around town where people would see them, mailing copies of these notices, and publishing one such notice in a newspaper published within Maryland’s borders.

This gives other interested parties time to object before probate court proceedings begin later on down the road. The administrator gets a percentage, like in California, he gets zero percent of the first 9 million dollars, then 5% of the next 5 million dollars, and for more, the court decides.

Duties of an Administrator

As an administrator, your duties include:

  • Collecting and distributing assets of the estate. First, you’ll gather your loved one’s property and prepare it for distribution according to their wishes. You’ll then distribute these assets as directed in their will or as the court decides if there is no last will.
  • Paying debts of the deceased person’s estate. This includes paying any taxes due on income earned after death, paying off funeral expenses, paying any outstanding loans owed by your loved one, and covering medical bills or other debts incurred before their passing.
  • Suppose there are sufficient funds available after these obligations have been met. In that case, those remaining funds may be distributed among beneficiaries according to their wishes in a validly executed power of attorney or living trust agreement signed before death occurred.
  • Filing income tax for the deceased. Administrators also have to file the income tax for the dead in Form 1040, which is for individuals, and Form 1041, which is for estates. The former two are income taxes. The administrator must also file an Estate tax return on Form 706.
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Navigating the Probate Process

The probate process can be confusing and stressful, especially if you don’t have a will. Here are the steps you’ll take in Maryland:

  • File the petition. Once your loved one dies, you must file a petition within four months to open probate court proceedings. This allows everyone involved with their estate, including creditors, heirs, beneficiaries, and others, to have access to information about its assets and debts to make decisions about what happens next.
  • Notify heirs. Suppose your loved one did not leave behind an estate plan or documents that include an executor or personal representative. In that case, it’s up to family members by law who may qualify as potential heirs under state law at least 30 days before filing for probate court approval, otherwise known as “publishing notice.”

Once you have completed these two steps, here are the further steps you need to take:

  • Inventory and Appraisal
  • Payment of Debts
  • Distribution of Assets
  • Final Accounting
  • Closing of the Estate

Conclusion

The probate process can be long and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have questions or concerns about how your estate will be handled after your death, contact an experienced attorney who can help guide you through this process.

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