Maryland Probate Process for Personal Representatives
The probate process for a personal representative is a paperwork intensive and a detail-oriented process. The process typically takes about a year, and the personal representative steps into the shoes of the deceased loved one to administer his or her estate. That means that the personal representative marshals all of the decedent’s assets, pays all the legally enforceable debts, files any income or estate tax returns that are due and they make the distribution pursuant to the terms on the decedent’s last will and testament.
A Maryland probate attorney can advise the personal representative regarding paying debts and administrative expenses. A Maryland probate lawyer can also assist the personal representative with creating an initial inventory of the assets, and any administrative accounts or reports that may be due. With an attorney’s help, the burden of the personal representative can be mitigated. The court in the jurisdiction that deals with most probate matters is the Orphan’s Court. There is an Orphan’s Court in each county.
Personal Representative Duties in the Maryland Probate Process
For a lot of personal representatives this can be a more detailed or task-oriented process than they are used to when handling their personal financial and legal affairs. The personal representative may be required to call several banks or financial institutions to marshal and value the assets as of the date of the death, and to organize the assets into the appropriate estate accounts.
The personal representative has a fiduciary obligation to the estate, which includes keeping the estate assets separate from his or her own personal assets. Many times times this can be a confusing concept to the personal representative, especially where a personal representative is also a surviving spouse. You may not understand that you are wearing a different hat when you are working as a personal representative than when you are just an heir or an individual.
Potentially Frustrating Aspects for Personal Representatives
Some of the frustrations that have been expressed by personal representatives in the past have been the amount of paperwork and accounting that is required to effectively administer the estate.
In addition, some personal representatives find it difficult to deal with family members or to deal with other issues that arise in the grieving process. For other personal representatives, they be surprised by the time consuming nature of the estate or just administering the estates and dealing with the issues of the life of a loved one that the personal representative was not aware of prior to their death.
Timeline for the Probate Process
The probate process in Maryland typically takes about one year in most straightforward estate administration cases. In cases where there may be family disputes or other ambiguity, the administration of the estate can take much longer.
The factors that shape how long the administration of an estate may take are often defined long before a loved one passes away. Effective estate planning that predicts or helps account for any issues that may plague the estate can make the estate administration process much more streamlined. During his or her lifetime, an individual can review his or her estate plan frequently to ensure that it is up to date, and exercise good record keeping so that the administration of the estate is easier for the personal representative. In cases where the assets of the decedent are unknown and it can often take longer for the personal representative to collect and identify all of the assets of the decedent. In addition, family disputes can also prolong the estate administration process.
Potential Beneficiaries and Peace of Mind
An important thing for personal representatives to remember is that the family or any other interested person has lost a loved one and are going through a grieving process. Grieving can make individuals react in very different ways than they may have acted in other circumstances. A personal representative would be prudent to remember to be patient throughout the grieving process.
Some of individuals have said they find it rewarding to carry out a loved one’s final wishes. The process allows them to remain or feel like they remain in touch with the person that has passed away and that they are honoring them after they are gone.
The Orphan’s Court in Maryland
The Orphan’s Court has jurisdiction over probate matters, but they are also helped by the Register of Wills of each county. The Register of Wills office accepts pleadings for the probate court, and provides the auditors that review the accountings. Often, a member of the Register of Wills team may be in the courtroom, as well as the judge for the probate matter, when there is a necessity for a hearing.
Filing for Probate Matters
In Maryland, most filings can be completed in person with the Register of Wills office for the county where the estate is being administered or mailed to the Register of Wills. Maryland does not currently have online filing for Maryland probate matters.
It is important to check the county website where the Orphan’s Court is located. Each court has different requirements. All courts do not allow weapons of any kind. Some courts do permit cell phones
There is no required dress code when attending probate court. In many cases a personal representative or family may never need to attend court throughout the estate administration.