Probate for Small Estates in Maryland

Probate has a reputation of being a lengthy and expensive legal process. Even if all goes according to schedule, it may take months or even years for all heirs to receive their inheritance. However, it may be possible to shorten the process through a simplified version of probate for small estates. This may be an option if a decedent’s estate contains a value of less than $50,000 or if the estate contains less than $100,000 and the decedent’s spouse is the sole heir.

As a knowledgeable lawyer could explain, obtaining certification as a small estate can significantly shorten the time and expenses associated with probate. Contact an attorney today to learn more about probate for small estates in Maryland and to determine if this option may be available in your situation.

What Does it Mean to Enter Probate for a Small Estate?

Probate for a small estate describes a simplified and shortened process. The Annotated Code of Maryland, Estates and Trusts, § 5-602 says that any party otherwise eligible to submit an estate for probate under state law may petition the orphan’s court to initiate a small estate procedure.

There are numerous benefits to asking for this classification. First, the party asking the court for this classification will receive an immediate appointment as the personal representative of the estate upon acceptance of the petition. This allows the representative to settle debts and distribute assets. Second, the register of wills can order the immediate sale of property to satisfy debtors. Finally, the register can directly submit a will to probate if assets remain after the payment of debts. These three factors contribute to a significantly shortened and simplified probate process.

When is an Estate Eligible for Classification as a Small Estate?

The benefits of receiving certification as a small estate are numerous. Accordingly, it is important to understand what factors a court will evaluate when considering a petition. Under the Ann. Code of MD, Estates and Trusts § 5-601, the main factor to consider is the value of the estate. If the estate contains property values of $50,000 or less at the date of death of the decedent, the estate will always qualify for small estate status.

The second factor is the identity of the decedent’s heirs. In situations where a surviving spouse is the sole heir to the estate, and the estate contains a value of $100,000 or less, the classification as a small estate is also possible. A lawyer who understands small estate laws in Maryland could further explain this scenario.

Evidence in Maryland Small Estate Petitions

Petitions seeking classification as a small estate must include evidence supporting this request. This typically includes:

  • A statement from the petitioner that they have attempted to locate the entirety of the decedent’s property
  • A list of that property and its value
  • A list of known creditors of the decedents and the amount of their claims
  • A statement of pending legal proceedings involving the defendant

A skilled local attorney could assist in compiling the data necessary for crafting a small estate petition and submitting it to the court.

Consult a Maryland Lawyer on Probate for Small Estates

Enduring the probate process after the death of a friend or family member can be stressful, lengthy, and costly. Debates over which heirs receive which property can take months to resolve and require substantial litigation.

However, there is an alternative to the traditional probate process that may be available in certain scenarios. If a person passes away with assets valued at under $50,000, or names a surviving spouse as a sole heir, it may be possible to receive small estate status. Here, the court can shorten the overall process and order the direct sale of assets to pay debtors and allow for a quicker distribution of property. Contact an experienced lawyer today to learn more about probate for small estates in Maryland.