Bethesda Probate Process

Many individuals think that assets are distributed immediately following an individual’s death, but this is typically not the case. Generally, the probate process takes about one year to administer. However, any complications, such as family disputes or significant debts, can prolong the administration process. In order to best understand what to expect during the probate process in Bethesda, it is important to work with a probate attorney who can help solve disputes and streamline administration.

Personal Representatives

In many cases in Bethesda, attendance in court is not required by a Personal Representative during the probate process, unless a specific issue arises, such as a delinquent filing or an objection by one of the beneficiaries. Thus, many estates in Maryland can be administered without the Personal Representative ever attending a court hearing. When a Personal Representative resides outside of Maryland, the assistance of a local attorney may be particularly helpful when dealing with the probate process.

End of the Probate Process

The Bethesda probate process typically ends with the filing of a final account or a Final Report Under Modified Administration. Once either of these required court accountings is filed and approved by the court, the Personal Representative will make a distribution of the assets to the named beneficiaries or to the heirs at law. It is not uncommon for a Personal Representative to keep a small reserve of assets in non-interest-bearing accounts to pay any final expenses, and to distribute those funds once all expenses and audits are complete.

Dying Without a Will

If a decedent dies without a last will and testament, then Maryland law provides a default set of distribution provisions based on the relationship of the heir to the decedent. This is known as intestacy. Many individuals mistakenly believe that intestacy is based on the emotional nature of the relationship between the decedent and heir. However, it is instead based primarily on lineal bloodlines. For example, consider an individual with three children, no spouse, and no parents. If that individual dies, and, at death, was closest to just one of their three children, the relationship between the decedent and that one child would not make a difference under the laws of intestacy. Instead, each child would be entitled to receive an equal portion of the probate estate. This determination will help to better understand the Bethesda probate process and those who maintain more control over an estate.

Of course, intestacy often does not mirror an individual’s personal request or wishes for the disposition of their assets upon death. Often, a last will and testament which is signed prior to a decedent’s death and prior to them losing the required testamentary capacity, is a better way to ensure that assets at death are distributed pursuant to their wishes.

Many individuals also incorrectly believe that the appointed Personal Representative is entitled to the entirety of the decedent’s estate. However, it is important to note that the Personal Representative acts in a fiduciary capacity to distribute the assets pursuant to the laws of intestacy in the state of Maryland. The simple fact that an individual is appointed as the Personal Representative of an estate, does not mean that they are a beneficiary or an heir of the assets. Rather, they are tasked with the job of distributing the assets pursuant to either the last will and testament or to the laws of intestacy.