When an estate is left behind after a person’s death, it needs to be settled under the court’s supervision. The official way to settle an estate is through probate.
If the person died with a Will, they are said to have died testate and the court will appoint the individual designated in the Will as the Personal Representative (formerly known as the Executor/Executrix) to administer the Estate.
In the event that the person dies without a Will, they are said to have died intestate and the law sets forth the manner and priority of individuals who are able to be appointed Personal Representative and who are to receive the benefits of the Will.
It is the job of the Personal Representative to identify the value of the assets owned by the Estate. The Personal Representative will also need to pay the Estate’s bills as well as distribute the assets to the individuals named in the Will.
Probate is required to ensure that there is no fraud occurring after someone’s death, in probate, an estate is frozen until:
- A judge establishes that the Will is legitimate
- All people relevant to the case are notified
- All estate property has been identified
- All estate property has been appraised
- All creditors have been paid
- All taxes have been paid
As soon as all of these things have been done, the court will issue an Order to distribute the property and close the estate. In other cases, some estates don’t need to undergo probate. If an estate is considered a “small estate,” it will not require supervision of the court in order to be settled. Additionally, some assets may not be subject to probate: instead, they can be transferred automatically after the death of the owner.
Here are some of the most common types of assets that don’t need probate:
- Payable-on-Death Accounts
- Transfer-on-Death Accounts
- Beneficiary designations
- Assets from Joint Tenancy
- Tenancy by the Entirety
- Community Property with Right of Survivorship
Furthermore, if a deceased person had created a Living Trust to hold his or her biggest assets, this estate will not be probated unless the assets left outside the Trust exceed the limits of Maryland’s small estate.
Let the Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill take the burden off of your shoulders so that you can ensure your estate will be distributed according to your wishes. If an estate needs to be opened, we will work with your family during this difficult period. By assisting you in probate matters, the Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill helps ensure that your interests are protected, and your liability minimized.
If you have questions about Maryland probate law and how it might apply to your particular situation, contact us today and set up a free consultation.