Maryland Probate Video FAQs
For over 65 years, the Maryland probate attorneys at Frame & Frame have been serving the legal needs of our community. View our entire video library of frequently asked questions about probate in Maryland.
What You Need to Know About Probate in Maryland
Am I responsible for my deceased parent or spouse’s bills?
You are not personally responsible for a deceased parent’s bills or a deceased spouse’s bills. When a person passes, their estate is responsible to pay any and all outstanding debt. If in the event that the estate is insolvent and there are no assets to pay the bills, it is quite possible that those bills do not get paid. But you are not personally responsible or liable for those debts.
Do life insurance or retirement benefits need to go through probate?
Generally, life insurance benefits and retirement benefits do not have to go through the probate process if a beneficiary is designated. It’s very important to review your documents to make sure that you have a beneficiary named. You can name a primary beneficiary as well as a secondary beneficiary in the event that the primary beneficiary is deceased. If you have not named a beneficiary for those assets then those assets would have to go through the probate process as they would be payable to your estate.
Do we need to go through probate if there is a valid and non-contested will?
Even if there is a valid will that’s not contested, it still needs to go through the probate process. In Maryland, in order to transfer any assets to beneficiaries the assets need to go through probate, they need to be inventoried and reported to the court and the court would have to approve the final distribution of those assets to ensure that the assets are distributed pursuant to the provisions of the will.
How do I prepare an accounting?
In an estate, every six months until the estate closes, you have to file administration accounts with the court. Those accounts would list and report all of the income and additions to the estate as well as all of the expenses to the estate. The final administration account would not only show the final additions income and expenses, but would also show the distribution of the assets or funds in the estate to the beneficiaries or heirs pursuant to the will. That account would need to be approved by the court before making final distribution and closing the estate.
How does a revocable living trust avoid probate?
A revocable living trust can potentially avoid probate if it’s properly funded. If you create a trust, you have to transfer all of your assets to the trust. The trustee would then be responsible for managing and investing the money or the assets in the trust. If the assets have not been properly transferred to the trust, you may still have assets solely in your name and not in the name of the trust. Therefore, in that situation, you would have to probate any assets that are in your name only that have not been properly transferred to the trust. It’s very important to make sure that the trust is properly funded, that all of your assets are retitled in the name of the trust to avoid having to probate any of your assets.
How does the probate process work?
In Maryland, when a person dies and they own any assets in their name, those assets would have to go through the probate process. The person who’s named in the will as the personal representative would have to open an estate with the court. The court would then issue letters of administration allowing that person to ascertain the assets and perform the functions of handling and administering the estate. The personal representative would have to file an inventory, which inventories all of the assets of the decedent and then subsequently needs to file accountings every six months until the estate is closed. Those are called administration accounts. Those accounts take into account and report to the court all of the assets and expenses of the estate.
If I am named as executor (personal representative) in a will, do I have to serve?
If you’re named as a personal representative or an executor in a will, you’re not required to serve. If you choose not to serve, you would either sign a consent to appoint another person as the personal representative or executor or you could send a letter to the court advising the court or the orphans’ court in Maryland that you are choosing not to serve.
If I have a revocable living trust, do I still need a will?
If you have a revocable living trust, you would still need to have a will. In many cases, not all of the assets have been re-titled in the name of the trust and therefore those assets would need to go through the probate process. The will would essentially pour over any and all assets that hadn’t been titled in the name of the trust into the trust to ensure that those assets are in fact distributed in accordance with the trust provisions.
My mom recently passed away. Does her estate automatically go through probate?
When a person passes, their estate does not automatically go through probate. A personal representative needs to be appointed by the court. That person is either named in a will or applies under the law of Maryland. Once that person is appointed, they need to do specific things such as file and inventory and accountings with the court in order to make a final distribution at some point of the assets of the decedent.
My spouse died and left a will leaving his/her assets to me and my children. Do we have to probate the will?
Even if your spouse has passed away and left a will leaving all of his assets or her assets to you and your children, that will still would need to be probated. You would have to go through the probate process as long as the decedent owned assets solely in his or her name. If the assets were held jointly, they would most likely automatically pass to the surviving owner. But if there were assets solely in the decedent’s name, those assets would have to go through the probate process in order to be distributed to either the spouse or the children of the decedent.
What are letters of administration?
When an estate is opened by a personal representative, the court will issue letters of administration appointing that person as the personal representative. Once they have the letters of administration, that’s basically the order from the court allowing them to have access to the decedent’s assets including bank accounts, real property, life insurance benefits and any other assets that the decedent may own at the time of their death.
What are probate assets?
Probate assets are any assets solely in the decedent’s name at the time of his or her death. Assets that have beneficiaries designated would not go through the probate process and would not be considered probate assets. Those would include insurance proceeds, CDs, annuities, or retirement accounts, or any other type of account that has a beneficiary named. Otherwise, all off the decedent’s assets would have to go through the probate process.
What happens if the personal representative fails to perform his or her duty?
If a personal representative fails to perform his or her duty in an estate, another person who wishes to be appointed in that position, or who has standing to object to the the person representative serving, could file a petition with the court, asking that the court remove that person. A hearing would be set before the court, and then the court would determine whether or not that person, is in fact, complying with their obligations and performing their duties, or if that person should be removed and a substitute personal representative should be appointed.
What is a personal representative?
A personal representative is a person that is either appointed in a will to handle an estate or who is appointed by the court to handle a decedent’s estate. That person is the person who is responsible for managing and preserving the estate assets pending distribution. Once the estate is ready to be closed, they ensure that the assets are distributed to the heirs, as provided for in the will or pursuant to the laws of Maryland.
What is an estate accounting?
An estate accounting is an accounting that needs to be filed with the court reporting all of the assets and expenses of the estate. In Maryland, once an estate is open, the first account is due within nine months and then accountings need to be filed every six months thereafter until the estate is closed.
What is ancillary probate?
When a person passes, you will have a primary estate in the state in which the person was domiciled or resided on the date of their death. But if that person owned real estate or other assets in another state you may have to go through another probate process in that state. That secondary estate is called an ancillary estate.
What is required to complete the list of inventory of assets?
In a Maryland estate, in order to prepare an inventory of assets, the personal representative will need to ascertain all of the assets that the decedent owned at the time of their death as well as the value of those assets. In the case of a car, you could use the Kelley Blue Book value. In the case of real property, you could either get a formal appraisal or you could use the State Department of Assessment and Taxation County Tax Assessment and all of the assets and the values would be reported to the court on that inventory.
What should I do to prepare for seeing a probate attorney?
Well, prior to meeting with your probate attorney, I would suggest that you gather the documents that you need, which would be the original will, a death certificate, the funeral expenses. Then you would need to bring a list of all assets the deceased owned at the time of his or her death. That would include assets whether they were titled solely in the descendant’s name or jointly with another person.
When is probate required to transfer title to real estate?
Whenever a descendant-owned real estate solely in their name at the time of their death, the real estate would have to go through the probate process. The only time that a piece of real estate would not have to be probated would be if it was jointly owned with another person as a joint tenant or with a spouse as a tenant by entirety.
Who pays for the estate attorney?
Most of the time a personal representative is going to need the assistance of an attorney in handling an estate. Those attorney’s fees are paid from the estate. It is an expense of the estate and it is reported on the accounting and deducted before making final distribution.
Do you have a question that’s not answered on this list? Call us at 410-255-0373.