Opening an Estate in Maryland

Generally, an individual in Maryland, either the nominated Personal Representative or an individual with priority to serve under Maryland law, must petition the court through the Register of Will’s office for the proper jurisdiction to serve on behalf of the estate and to begin the official opening an estate administration procedure. Every opening an estate case is different and the required pleadings are dependent on facts involved in the opening an estate case, the assets of the estate, and of course whether or not an individual died with or without a Last Will and Testament.

If you or a family member is interested in opening an estate in Maryland, a qualified estate planning lawyer can guide you through the planning process. A Maryland estate planning attorney has an understanding of the various legal processes you will need to plan a beneficial future for you and your family.

Estate Size

The primary difference in estate size is the amount of assets. For individuals opening an estate that are not married and have $50,000 or less than in assets, a small estate may be used, if individuals are married and have $100,000 in assets, again, a small estate may be used but anything over those thresholds would require the administration of a regular estate.

Impact of the Amount of Estate in Maryland

The amount of estate assets may dictate what proceeding is available for opening an estate. The amount impact when opening an estate may dictate whether or not Maryland estate taxes or federal estate taxes are due. Generally, the amount of the estate also provides for or is used when determining how much is available in Personal Representative commission, but it should be noted that the size of the estate does not necessarily directly result in the difficulty in administering the estate.

For example, an individual can have a large estate but that estate could be in one or two assets and they could have done a proper estate planning in which case the opening of an estate administration may be relatively streamlined. Another individual may only have very minimal assets that might have several bank accounts and several issues that need to be resolved before the opening of an estate can be administered. The difficulty of opening an estate does not necessarily relate to the total value of the gross estate but rather the planning that has been done in advance.

Filing a Last Will and Testament

When opening an estate, the initial Will and Testament filings required to open an estate are often dependent on the nature of the assets in the estate, the case facts of the estate, and whether or not an individual died without a Last Will and Testament. Generally, a petition is involved in opening an estate but whether the petition is for a small estate or large estate will again depend on the assets of the estate.

For Maryland, individuals opening an estate have three options regarding the storage of original Last Will and Testament during their lifetime. One option is to file the original Last Will and Testament with the Register of the Wills office for the appropriate accounting to where an individual resides.

Another option when opening an estate is for the individual to store the original Last Will and Testament on their own. However, it should be noted that the Last Will and Testament should be in a place that it is easily accessible after death, one that is secured, if possible by a fire or water damage, and therefore that often precludes a safe deposit box because an individual may not be able to have somebody else access the box after their death.

Estate Notices

In Maryland, in some opening estate case administrations, a Notice of Appointment, Notice to Creditors, and Notice Unknown Heirs is published in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks.

Petitioning for Estate Probate

Generally, the Personal Representative of an estate will petition the court for probate and that person is either nominated in the Last Will and Testament of a decedent or they are named to have priority to serve based under the Maryland laws of intestacy. It should be noted that other individuals in Maryland law that do have priority to serve as well as largest creditors of a decedent’s estate. It is not just family members that may petition when opening an estate, the largest creditor may also petition as well.

Contacting a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney

Maryland estate planning attorneys provide a third option when opening an estate, which is to hold the original Last Will and Testament in their firm’s case deposit box so they can be accessed after the death of the decedent and it is kept safe since the original will likely not be needed until the individual has passed away. After a testator’s death, the original Last Will and Testament is filed with the Register of Wills office of the appropriate county.

Locating Heirs

Heirs are located in a number of different ways when opening an estate. If an heir is known, meaning that an individual knows that there is a family member missing, they may invoke an heir search company or work with family members to track down the last known address. In other cases, where there is a child born out of wedlock that the family or the Personal Representative is unfamiliar with, that heir may never be found simply because family members are simply unaware of their existence. Oftentimes, when opening an estate, a Notice of Appointment, Notice to Creditors and Notice to Unknown Heirs is published in a newspaper for unknown heirs to come forward.

Bond Requirements for an Estate

The rules are relative to whether an estate is a small estate or a large or regular estate administration. In a small estate, a bond is required if the assets of the estate exceed the debt of the estate or the expenses of the estate by $10,000 or more. In a regular estate administration, a full bond is required for opening an estate, but in any event that a decedent dies without a Last Will and Testament and not all of the residuary beneficiaries consent to the appointment of a Personal Representative with a waiver or bond. Even in the event that a decedent dies with a Last Will and Testament that waives bond, a nominal bond is still required in the State of Maryland for a regular opening of an estate administration proceeding.