The Maryland Probate Process
Probate is the Maryland legal proceeding by which one settles a decedent’s estate.
Probate starts by filing a petition for probate asking the court to open an estate and appoint a personal representative (executor).
For the protection of interested persons and creditors, Maryland law requires that personal representatives be bonded (insured).
The Duties of a Personal Representative in Maryland
The duties of the personal representative include, as follows.
(1) Take possession and control of estate property.
The personal representative must insure and otherwise safeguard all of the property in the estate.
(2) Notify creditors and pay claims.
Generally, any person having a claim against the decedent must file the claim with the court within 6 months after the date of the decedent’s death. A claim not presented or filed on or before that date is unenforceable thereafter.
(3) Notify interested persons.
Within 20 days of his or her appointment, the personal representative is required to file with the court a list of names and addresses of the beneficiaries named in the Will (legatees) and the decedent’s next-of-kin who would inherit in the absence of a Will (heirs). The Register of Wills then mails notice to all interested persons that an estate has been opened, and advises them of their legal rights.
In Maryland, any person having an objection to the probate of the decedent’s Will must file his or her objections with the court within 6 months of the date of appointment of the personal representative. By law, an objection not filed within 6 months is time barred.
(4) File tax returns, and pay income taxes and wealth transfer taxes.
The personal representative must file the decedent’s final income tax returns. The personal representative must also file the estate’s income tax returns. An estate is a separate legal entity which requires its own tax identification number, and its own set of income tax returns, both Federal and State.
Maryland largely repealed its inheritance tax in 2000. Under current law, spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters, and charities all are entirely exempt from inheritance tax. Distributions to more distant relatives (like nieces, nephews, and cousins) and to friends, however, are still subject to a 10% inheritance tax.
(5) File an inventory.
The inventory should list, reasonably describe, and state the date-of-death fair market value of each item of property in the estate.
(6) File an account, and distribute funds to the beneficiaries.
The account should include:
- the date-of-death value of all estate property, as reported on the inventory
- miscellaneous receipts (like refund checks)
- sales of estate property (with verifying statements attached)
- income (such as interest earned on an estate bank account)
- expenses (including payments to creditors; the cost of appraising estate property; and the cost of preparing tax returns)
- proposed distributions to the beneficiaries
The personal representative must verify under the penalties of perjury that the contents of the account are true to the best of the personal representative’s knowledge, information and belief. And the personal representative must serve notice of the filing of the account on each interested person.
The Register of Wills audits the account.
Following audit by the Register and approval of the account by the court, the court immediately executes an order of approval, subject to any exceptions. An exception must be filed within 20 days after entry of the order approving the account, and shall include the grounds therefor in reasonable detail. A copy of the exception must be served on the personal representative. If no timely exceptions are filed, the order of the court approving the account becomes final. The court order approving the final account automatically closes the estate.
For More Information or Help with the Maryland Probate Process
The Law Office of Henry Nash practices probate law. If you have any questions or concerns about your Will and/or the administration of a decedent’s estate, and want to discuss with an experienced estates and trusts lawyer, please feel free to contact us.