Montgomery County Probate Lawyer
Probate refers to the legal process that occurs after someone dies. To avoid mismanagement of a person’s estate after death, the court supervises the process of identifying their heirs or proving their will to ensure assets are properly distributed.
Assets owned in an individual’s sole name at the time of their death will be subject to probate regardless of whether or not they died with a valid will. Although a will serves many important functions, a will alone does not avoid probate.
An experienced trusts and estates attorney understands how difficult it can be to deal with legal formalities while you are still grieving. Working with a Montgomery County probate lawyer could help simplify the probate process and bring about the closure you need.
MoCo Probate Proceedings
Probate proceedings should be initiated in the city or county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death. A person’s domicile is typically their principal place of residence. In most parts of Maryland, Orphans’ Court judges are responsible for supervising probate proceedings, but in Montgomery County, a Circuit Court judge fills this role.
If there is a will, the person named as a personal representative will typically open the estate. If there is no will, state law applicable in MoCo determines priority for appointment. In most cases where there is a will, the original will must be filed with the Register of Wills. For more information about the probate proceedings, reach out to a Montgomery County trusts and estates attorney.
Appointment of a Personal Representative
A personal representative must file a petition and be granted authority by the court before they can act with respect to the estate. After the petition is filed, the court will typically issue Letters of Administration which gives the personal representative the authority they need to administer the estate.
The personal representative has the responsibilities of:
- Gathering all probate assets
- Valuing and taking inventory of probate assets
- Paying debts and expenses of the estate
- Filing any required tax returns
- Ultimately distributing them to the beneficiaries named in the will or if there is no will to the heirs at law.
Small Estate Proceedings
There is a simplified probate process available for smaller estates. Estates with probate assets less than $50,000, or $100,000 if the surviving spouse is the sole heir, may be distributed as small estates. Small estates can generally be administered much faster than a regular estate.
Many people actively try to avoid probate. Probate can really only be avoided if a person dies without any assets titled in their sole name. Examples of assets that are non-probate assets and therefore not subject to the probate process are assets that have designated beneficiaries, assets with joint owners or assets titled in the name of a trust. Assets like life insurance policies and retirement plans typically have designated beneficiaries.
Real estate is an example of an asset that many people own jointly with a spouse of another family member. Even if efforts are made to avoid probate, sometimes people forget to retitle assets or name a designated beneficiary, which could trigger the need for probate.
Contested Probate Matters
Most uncontested probate cases are closed within a year. However, if a party objects to any aspect of the case, this can significantly delay the process. Such opposing parties may include creditors or disinherited family members. A seasoned probate lawyer in the area could be helpful during this time.
Speak with a Montgomery County Probate Attorney
If you have a probate matter in MoCo, reach out to an attorney who could help. Call the office to schedule a meeting with a Montgomery County probate lawyer who could help you with the probate process. The sooner you call, the sooner an attorney could begin working on your case.