Maryland Estate Administration Considerations
Estate administration is the process of wrapping up an individual’s affairs after death. Depending on the prior estate planning that was completed by the decedent, as well as the nature of the assets and the specific case facts, that process can be different for each individual.
Generally, it involves, in some cases, a court administration procedure which would allow individuals to be appointed to serve on behalf of the estate as a personal representative. After a personal representative is appointed, then the assets of the estate are marshaled, any legally enforceable debts are reviewed and paid, tax returns are filed if necessary. If there are any taxes due, they are then paid and then the distribution is made even pursuant to that decedent’s last will and testament created prior to death or in accordance to Maryland’s laws of intestacy. If an individual wants to know more about Maryland estate administration considerations that could impact them, they should consult an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Proceedings Involved in the Administration of an Estate
Estate administration proceedings in Maryland differ depending on the planning that was done by the individual, if any, prior to death, and depending on the nature of the case, if there was a family dispute, as well as the nature of the assets, how the assets are titled, et cetera. Generally, the last will and testament nominates a personal representative, and the person will petition the court or the register of wills. It is filed at the register of wills office in the appropriate county. In many cases, there is no hearing required.
In cases where there is a dispute, uncertainty regarding the validity of the will or the presence of the will or who has priority to serve, a hearing may be necessary. One of the important Maryland estate administration considerations to keep in mind is that specific pleadings will vary from case to case, but generally, a petition for probate is filed, and a list of interested persons is filed. In some cases, an information report is also filled. A bond may be required, so a bond may be filed, and a notice of appointment, a notice to unknown heirs, and a notice to creditors is sometimes also filed, but again it depends on the case facts that are present to determine what pleadings are necessary.
Unclaimed property is generally property that has been turned over to the State of Maryland because the assets have been abandoned. Unclaimed property is one of the vehicles that are used to search for assets. One of the difficult pieces of administering the estate, especially in the age of digital bank accounts, is finding all of the assets that belong to a decedent. There are several ways that attorneys go about that, but they often test the property to see if there is anything that is still outstanding.
Probate in Maryland
One of the Maryland estate administration considerations to keep in mind is that the court system governs probate. Maryland probate is overseen primarily by the orphan’s court for each county. The orphan’s courts are not all the same; some orphan’s courts in some counties are made up of circuit court judges that rotate into the orphan’s court for a limited time.
In some of those counties, it is not uncommon for the circuit court judges to not be as familiar with the probate law because they are new to the docket and they are switching it every few years. Other jurisdictions in Maryland have dedicated judges in the orphan’s court, but with those judges may or not be attorneys, so knowing the composition of the orphan’s court in the multiple counties to some degree can help administrators understand how an estate is going to be administered.
Value of Working With an Estates Attorney
In Maryland, it is common for individuals to frequently own properties in multiple jurisdictions. In addition, some parts of Maryland are close to the Metropolitan area, and it is common that clients move across the border and own properties in DC, Virginia and other local jurisdictions in Maryland. An attorney working at a local firm may practice in all three of the local jurisdictions and could use their knowledge to help individuals.
An estate lawyer can help a Personal Representative by advising them of their fiduciary obligations, assisting them with all of the judicial pleadings, and to have them appointed. The estate lawyer can be available to offer their experience throughout the estate administration in valuing assets, collecting assets, and creating an inventory of all of the estate assets.
An estate attorney can also participate in the preparation of Maryland and/or final estate tax return and any post-mortem tax planning that is available. An attorney can often advise on post-mortem tax planning, and help establish plans for distribution of the assets whether that is selling some of the assets or bidding the property, out or re-titling the assets.