Different Probate Approaches: Small Estate and Regular Estate

Probate is the legal process of transferring a deceased person’s assets to the beneficiaries and involves a court procedure. Before property can be distributed to beneficiaries, the executor of the estate must carry out various tasks, such as locating assets, paying debtors, etc. Moreover, probate works differently for different sized estates. As such, what applies to a regular sized estate many not apply to a small estate.

Simplified Probate in Maryland to Bypass Court and Save Time

In some cases, a probate case can take years to finalize. However, if the assets of the deceased qualify as a small estate, as defined by statute, you may be able to bypass the traditional probate process by filing for small estate. Probating a small estate takes less time than probating a regular estate and there are less filing requirements. A small estate only requires a petition requesting that the estate be accepted as a small estate. Under Maryland law, an estate can be filed as a small estate if its value is less than $50,000. Additionally, an estate qualifies as a small estate when it is valued at $100,000 or less and the only beneficiary is the surviving spouse.

A large percentage of estates do not need to go through traditional probate because most senior citizens pass away with assets valued at less than $50,000. In fact, an MIT study found that 46 percent of senior citizens die with less than $10,000 in financial assets to their name.

The Probate Process for Regular Estates

Probate for regular estates goes through either administrative or judicial probate. Non-contested estates go through an administrative process, while contested estates goes through a judicial process and requires a hearing before the Orphan’s Court to determine if the Last Will & Testament will be accepted and who will be appointed as the executor (referred to in Maryland as the personal representative). A contested probate takes longer and is more costly than non-contested. If the Executor of the estate works with an attorney to avoid mistakes and minimize conflict between beneficiaries and family members, a contested probate can be avoided

An Estate Plan Helps Avoid Probate if That is the Desire of the Estate Owner

While 46 percent of the senior population has less than $10,000 at their time of death, the average amount of assets an unmarried senior had one year before death was $165,000, and the median a married couple had one year before death was $600,000. For people with large estates, estate planning should be considered. Estate planning is different for each individual or household, and no single approach should ever be applied or manipulated to conform to someone’s specific circumstances. For example, certain tax-saving trusts and financial planning concepts would be wasted on a small estate that is not subject to Maryland’s estate or inheritance taxes. In such a case, the focus should be on how you want to leave behind your property, how it should be divided, and what your last wishes may be. For large estates, every tax- savings method should be explored.

Call Maryland Probate Attorney Tara K. Frame

Our attorneys can provide assistance to ensure that a probate goes smoothly in court, that the Executor has assistance and support so mistakes can be avoided, and reduces or eliminates probate contests. For assistance, call Frame & Frame at 410-255-0373.