When someone dies in Maryland, the distribution of their estate is determined by Maryland probate laws. Different treatment will apply depending on how large the estate is and whether the deceased person left a will governing administration and distribution of their assets. Here are some of the most important things to know about Maryland estate administration:
If the value of estate assets is more than the amount of the decedent’s debt, the estate must be probated. However, an estate with a value of $50,000 or less ($100,000 or less if the spouse was the sole heir) is considered a small estate under Maryland law and is eligible to be distributed through a simplified administration process.
Administrative vs. Judicial Probate
For estates greater than $50,000 (or greater than $100,000 when the spouse was the sole heir) if estate distribution is straightforward and is not contested, the estate can be administered through an “administrative probate” proceeding, which is handled by the county Register of Wills.
If estate distribution is contested, the matter will be administered by the Orphan’s Court.
The Personal Representative
The personal representative is the person given authority to handle the administrative tasks associated with winding down the decedent’s estate, such as paying valid debts and taxes, before distributing assets according to the decedent’s will. If no will exists, then assets are distributed according to Maryland law. If there was a personal representative nominated in the will, he or she will have priority for appointment as the personal representative. If no personal representative was nominated, or if the nominated person is unable to serve, then the decedent’s surviving spouse and children have priority over others named in the will or other relatives. The will has no power until it is received by the appropriate county Register of Wills. Once it has been filed, someone wishing to be officially appointed as a personal representative needs to file the necessary documents to request an appointment and open the probate estate. The personal representative will need to post a surety bond, publish a notice for three consecutive weeks in a legal newspaper, inventory estate assets, file tax returns, pay debts and expenses including taxes, file a final accounting with the court, and distribute assets.
The requirement to File Wills
If the decedent left a will, the will must be sent to the Register of Wills for the county where the decedent was living at their death. The Montgomery County, MD, Register of Wills is in Rockville. In Howard County, MD, the Register of Wills office is in Ellicott City. In Prince George’s County, MD, the Register of Wills is in Upper Marlboro.
For more information
General information about the probate and estate administration process is available on the Maryland Register of Wills website. An experienced probate attorney can also provide additional guidance and help to navigate the complexity.