Maryland Probate Lawyers
When a loved one passes, their estate may require settlement in a court-supervised legal process called probate. This process transfers ownership of your loved ones’ assets to their beneficiaries. Even if a person has a will, probate may be required.
While the process seems simple enough, it almost never goes as planned. Probate can be lengthy, confusing, and challenging, particularly for family members who are already dealing with losing a loved one. At the Baddour Law Firm, our experienced probate attorney can help shoulder this burden so you can focus on what’s important. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
What is Probate?
The word “probate” means “to prove.” In Maryland, the probate court handles various matters related to a deceased person’s estate are reviewed so that assets can be legally transferred. In other words, probate is the state’s way of ensuring a person’s wishes are honored and any obligations are fulfilled.
When is Probate Required in Maryland?
The term “estate” refers to an individual’s assets and liabilities. Everyone has an estate, regardless of its size. Generally, when a person dies with assets in their sole name, probate will be required. In the simplest terms, probate assets go through probate, and non-probate assets can transfer without going through probate.
Probate assets are anything titled solely in the name of the decedent at the time of their death. Some examples include:
- A decedent owns a home only in their name.
- A decedent has a retirement investment account only in their name.
- A decedent’s business had no one else on the title.
Some examples of non-probate assets that can transfer outside the probate process include:
- Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries.
- Accounts set up with a right of survivorship or joint tenancy provision.
- Assets held in a trust.
- IRAs with designated beneficiaries.
- Vehicles titled with a “transfer on death” beneficiary.
- Pay-on-death bank accounts.
How Probate Works
It’s important to understand that probate is a process. It’s not a single form you fill out or a one-time courthouse appearance. The process can take anywhere from 6-12 months. If it’s contested, probate can take years to resolve.
Planning for estate administration often takes place for individuals before they pass away. A person may work with an estate planning attorney to memorialize their wishes through a series of comprehensive documents.
Probate When There Is a Will
The basic goal of probate is to pass clear title of assets to the deceased’s rightful beneficiaries. Assets subject to this process are referred to as probate assets. Passing away with a will is called “testate.” In these cases, the will typically names a personal representative who will:
- Identify and collect all assets.
- Identify any liabilities.
- Pay the decedent’s expenses and debts.
- Distribute the remaining assets to name beneficiaries.
Probate When There Is No Will
When there is no will, a person is said to have died “intestate.” In these cases, the state of Maryland will determine who will be the beneficiaries. State law determines intestate succession, which can be incredibly complex and not resemble the deceased’s wishes at all.
Formal Probate Process in Maryland
Whether or not a deceased had a will when they passed away, the probate process is similar. What’s different is who gets the final distribution as a beneficiary. Our firm helps clients navigate this complex process and create strong estate plans to avoid any confusion in the future. The formal process for settling an estate involves these steps:
Locating the Will
The most recent and valid will needs to be located and submitted to the clerk of the court. Some states require that this be done within a certain number of days after death, but Maryland does not. However, whoever locates or possesses the will must file it promptly after the deceased passes.
Giving Required Notice
Maryland law requires that a Notice of Administration be provided to the surviving spouse and beneficiaries listed in the will. Known creditors must also be given notice so they have time to file a claim against the estate.
The personal representative takes custody of the estate and its assets and then provides an inventory to the court and beneficiaries.
Handling Creditor Disputes
If any creditors file claims against the estate, the personal representative may object. Creditors have the right to sue the estate for payment. These matters can substantially delay settling probate.
Overseeing Beneficiary Distribution
After the preceding steps are resolved, the remaining estate assets can be distributed to beneficiaries.
Discharging the Case
The estate’s personal representative will file a full accounting with the court and petition for discharge of the case.
How Much Does Probate Cost?
Probate legal fees are established by the state. Under Maryland law, probate administration fees are based on the total gross estate value but don’t include certain costs and expenses. The personal representative is also entitled to a statutory fee for their services, which will be approved by the court.
While the fees different attorneys charge may be similar, don’t assume all probate attorneys are the same. Some law firms only dabble in these areas, and a lack of knowledge can lead to serious delays and problems for their clients. Make sure you choose a seasoned probate lawyer who understands this area of the law and will help you navigate this process.
Contact an Experienced Southern Maryland Probate Law Firm
The process of probate administration can be cumbersome and stressful. At the Baddour Law Firm, our job is to assist you in your capacity as the petitioner or the estate’s personal representative in probate court. We are dedicated to helping clients achieve efficient administration that is time and cost-effective.
Because this is a court-supervised process, it can be complex. We ensure your rights are protected throughout the process as we adhere to your legal obligations. For services throughout Calvert, please call (301) 494-2108 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Dunkirk and St. Mary’s for your convenience.
All information displayed on the the Baddour Law Firm website is informational and shall not be deemed as legal advice. If you’re currently dealing with an individual legal situation, you’re invited to contact us through email or by phone. Until an attorney-client relationship has been established, we urge that you avoid sharing any confidential information. Furthermore, no representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.