Maryland Estate Planning: Estate Administration

What does estate administration mean in Maryland?

Estate administration is how someone’s assets are dealt with after they have passed away. It typically involves the following:

  • Filing the necessary pleadings with the Orphan’s Court for the county in which the decedent resided at the date of death,
  • Marshaling all the decedent’s assets,
  • Paying any of the decedent’s legally enforceable debts,
  • Filing the necessary final and/or fiduciary income tax returns,
  • Preparing and filing any estate tax returns if necessary, and
  • Making distribution of the decedent’s estate to the beneficiaries or heirs.

Who is the Administrator?

In Maryland, the term for executor is actually personal representative. The personal representative is appointed by the Orphan’s Court and has the fiduciary responsibility to marshal a decedent’s estate’s assets, pay legally enforceable debts from those assets, and make distribution pursuant to either the laws of intestacy or the decedent’s last will and testament. If you have a last will and testament, it will name a personal representative and a successor personal representative in the event that your initial personal representative cannot serve. If you have not written or properly executed a will, then Maryland law will dictate who has the priority to serve as personal representative.

What is Involved in Being a Personal Representative?

The personal representative is actually a fiduciary role with fiduciary obligations as outlined by the last will and testament and/or the laws of the State of Maryland. Frequently, a personal representative will work with appraisers to value the decedent’s tangible and real property at the date of death. They will work with accountants to prepare the income tax return. They will work with an attorney to help them file any of the required pleadings for the probate court and to file the estate tax returns. If necessary they may also work with Realtors to sell any real estate in the estate, and estate clean-out companies to ready the real property for sale. Those are just a few of the vendors and services which a personal representative will coordinate.

Can You Choose Who You Want as Your Personal Representative?

Yes. Naming your personal representative in your last will and testament is the first step to streamlining the administration of your estate. It is an important decision to make and you need to think wisely and carefully about the person whom you would like to select to serve in that fiduciary role. Although a personal representative is named in the last will and testament, they must still qualify and be appointed to serve by the Orphan’s Court for the appropriate county.

What are Some Important Things to Look for in a Personal Representative?

A personal representative should be someone whom you trust to handle the affairs of your estate. Ideally, the person would be over the age of 18, fiscally responsible, detail-oriented and proactive in handling their own affairs. They, for example, should not have filed for bankruptcy. There are also some limitations on whether they are able to serve if they have a criminal history or lack the mental capacity to serve.

How to Approach Estate Administration

My approach to estate administration is to be as efficient as possible. The administration of estates usually takes at least a year. Good communication with the personal representative along with good record-keeping by the personal representative can lead to an efficient and timely administration process.

Maryland Laws that Impact the Estate Administration Process

Probate for each state is very different. Maryland has its own specific laws regarding estate administration. For example, Maryland has both a state estate tax and a state inheritance tax.