Baltimore Law Firm Advises Clients Regarding Probate
Maryland Probate Lawyers Work to Ensure that Clients’ Final Wishes are Fulfilled
The administration of an estate usually includes collecting all the assets, valuing them as of the date of the decedent’s death, and completing the distribution. This process, known as probate, usually takes approximately one year in Maryland, however, family dynamics and issues with identifying and valuing assets can make it take much longer.
The Maryland Probate Process
The probate process is distinctive to every individual, typically dependent on their assets and how they want them distributed. Yet there are certain aspects of the Maryland probate process that makes it unique. For example, many assume that immediately after death, a will reading and distribution of assets will take place. However, this is not the case in Maryland, where the probate process does not require an official reading.
One common misconception is that once a personal representative has been named, that person will then have the authority to begin distribution of the decedent’s assets. However, to be recognized as the personal representative of an estate in Maryland, the named person must petition the Orphan’s Court for the proper authority to serve. If the petition is granted, the Orphan’s Court will issue Letter(s) of Administration authorizing the petitioner to act on behalf of the estate. Once a personal representative has been appointed, the administration of the estate will begin, according to the provisions of the will or pursuant to Maryland probate law.
Planning for estate administration often takes place before death, when an individual works with a qualified Maryland estate planning attorney to tailor the estate plan to fulfill their wishes and incorporate certain documents, including a last will and testament and a trust that, if suitably structured, can help decedents forego the probate process and pass property directly to their beneficiaries.
When an individual’s assets are held in their own name at the time of death, without a joint owner or beneficiary designation, the only way to appropriately transfer the ownership of their assets to future generations is through the probate process. Even if the decedent has a last will and testament and no assets in their own name, the original will must be filed with the Office of the Register of Wills.
Trusts and probate
The Maryland probate process has advantages and disadvantages, and any decisions regarding whether or not it should be avoided should be made on a case by case basis. One way to avoid probate in Maryland is through a revocable living trust that is created along with a last will and testament is. A declaration in the will stipulates that the property held in the trust at the time of death will be distributed according to the provisions set out in the trust.
One advantage to the process is that it starts at the beginning of the creditors’ period, which can reduce the statute of limitations for filing a claim against the estate. It also allows courts to supervise the personal representative, and forces that individual to consult with an attorney or the courts regarding important deadlines.
A knowledgeable Maryland probate attorney can provide assistance during the estate planning process to determine whether or not it would be beneficial to avoid probate. After death has occurred, avoiding probate is usually not an option.