Probate is a court-supervised process of gathering and distributing the assets and possessions of a deceased person to eligible creditors and inheritors. Here, the estate planning attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein explains probate procedure in Maryland.
Appointing a Personal Representative
The probate process begins with the appointment of a personal representative. A personal representative’s duty is to act as a representative on behalf of the estate. A personal representative may be named in the will of the deceased or appointed by the courts if one has not been named.
As a personal representative, it is your responsibility to protect and manage the estate’s assets and property during the probate process. Once a bond to act on behalf of the estate has been posted, the estate will be considered “open” for probate.
Determine Estate Size
In Maryland, the size of an estate will determine what kind of probate is needed. If an estate falls below a certain threshold, it is considered a “small estate” and does not require as much supervision. An estate that has a fair market value greater than $50,000 is no longer considered a small estate but is considered a regular estate instead and would be subject to more supervision. When a surviving spouse inherits an estate, the threshold for a regular estate increases to $100,000.
Taking Inventory of the Estate
Now that the size of the estate has been determined, all properties and assets must be inventoried. The inventoried property should be appraised and assigned a fair market value, this can include personal property, real estate and even cash assets. Items that are jointly owned will automatically be inherited by the joint owner.
Any debts, taxes or expenses will have to be considered for payment by the personal representative. The personal representative is responsible for filing income taxes for the year in which the deceased has passed. Debts should not be paid until the time for filing claims has run and the estate is known to be solvent.
Distribute and Close the Estate
Before an estate can be closed, the personal representative must ask for a court order approving the distribution of estate assets among those who were included in the will. Once this has happened and all outstanding debts have been settled, the personal representative may ask the court to formally close the estate.
Although it is not illegal to carry out the duties of a personal representative without legal advice, it is highly recommended to hire an attorney. A personal representative is entrusted with a very important task and you may face challenges fulfilling such duties. Having sound legal advice will help ease the burden placed on your shoulders. If you have been designated as an estate personal representative and would like to know more, contact the estate planning attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein today!