According to Investopedia, “Probate is a legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s will or the estate of a deceased person without a will.” Before any assets can be distributed to beneficiaries, the executor of the will, who is also called the personal representative, must locate assets, pay taxes and debts, and perform various other tasks in order to satisfy the requirements of Maryland law. Most normal estates take around a year to pass through probate in Maryland, when everything runs smoothly. However, problems can occur so it’s important to have an experienced Estate Planning & Probate attorney guide you through this process. Usually, whether the deceased person has a will or not, probate is necessary. Yet, there are savvy legal measures to take to avoid probate.
Create a Living Trust to Avoid Probate
One of the most common ways to avoid probate is to create a living trust, which must be created while the testator is still alive. You can accomplish this by working with an experienced estate planning attorney, like Frame & Frame to create a trust document and name a trustee, who will distribute all of the assets within the trust to the appropriate beneficiaries. All of the assets within the trust, which can include bank accounts, personal property, stocks, savings bonds, real property, and more, will bypass probate if they are included in the living trust.
Joint Ownership or Joint Tenancy
In Maryland, property that is owned by two spouses (or any other parties who own property jointly) does not have to pass through probate if it is owned as joint tenancy. Instead of going through probate, that property automatically goes to the surviving joint owner. However, Maryland has a presumption against joint tenancy, according to the People’s Law Library of Maryland, and therefore documents must clearly express that said property is to be owned as a joint tenancy.
Transfer-on-Death Registration for Vehicles
When a vehicle is registered with the Motor Vehicle Administration, you—the owner—can designate a beneficiary, according to the MVA. By doing so, the vehicle does not have to pass through probate upon your death. This is a good option for avoiding probate for a vehicle only, allowing beneficiaries to quickly and easily take possession of your vehicle(s) for use.
Small Estate for Estates Under $50,000 or Under $100,000
When there is less than $50,000 worth of assets in the estate, the state of Maryland provides a streamlined process to to pass assets through probate, but probate is still required. The same is true if the estate is valued at $100,000 or less and all the assets are passing to a surviving spouse. In both of these cases, the assets pass through a small estate proceeding, which is much quicker than a normal probate process. An attorney can help you navigate the process and provide sound guidance for the most effective ways to handle probate issues.
Reach Out to an Experienced Maryland Probate Administrator and Trust Attorney
Everyone needs a will, but that may not be enough to satisfy your specific needs, especially if you want your loved to avoid probate. An experienced Maryland estate planning attorney can help; it is never too early or too late to begin. To learn more, download the free guide, “What To Do After a Loved One Dies” or to get started today, contact the attorneys at Frame & Frame to schedule a consultation today.