Probate and Estate Administration in Montgomery County, Maryland

Probate Folders and Gavel

Maryland law requires that administration of a deceased person’s estate occur in the county where the deceased person maintained his or her legal residence.  This article provides an overview of the complex laws that apply to probate and estate administration in Montgomery County, Maryland. 

This summary is not a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) guide.  If you lost a loved one who resided in Montgomery County, you should talk with an experienced probate and estate attorney about the specific legal requirements applicable to your loved one’s estate.  The Law Office of Henry Nash in Rockville, Maryland, assists clients with all matters relating to estates in the County.

When Does An Estate Go Through Probate?

Estate administration involves management and distribution of the deceased person’s property. The responsibilities include collection of assets and property, payment of all expenses and debts, and distribution of property and assets to the legatees or heirs.  

To explain some of the terminology commonly used in estate administration:  Legatees are individuals who inherit under a will.  Heirs are family members who inherit from an estate under Maryland law of intestacy.  The term beneficiaries applies to people who inherit under a will or receive property under a trust, as well as individuals designated to receive assets after the owner’s death (such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts).

The term probate refers to the legal process of administering an estate to accomplish distribution of a deceased person’s property to the heirs.  If a valid will exists, it governs distribution of the property.  If the person died without a will (called dying intestate), state law determines distribution of the decedent’s property.

Under Maryland state law, most estates undergo some form of estate administration.  However, not all property goes through the probate process.  Examples of property that does not go through probate include:

  • Property held jointly with a right of survivorship
  • Assets that pass directly to named beneficiaries, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts
  • Property or money held in Pay-On-Death (POD) or Transfer-On-Death (TOD) accounts or titles
  • Assets in a trust that pass directly to beneficiaries

Property and assets that must go through the probate process include:

  • Property owned solely by the deceased person
  • Property owned jointly without the right of survivorship
  • Assets designating the deceased person’s estate as the beneficiary

Who Handles Administration of an Estate?

The personal representative of the deceased person handles administration of the estate.  The terms executor and administrator also refer to the personal representative of an estate. A personal representative has numerous fiduciary duties with regard to the estate and is subject to strict requirements of state law. 

If a will names the personal representative, that person has the authority to request authorization to administer the estate.  If there is no will, or if the person named in the will cannot or does not want to serve, Maryland law sets a priority order in which specific people may apply for appointment as personal representative.

Initiating Estate Administration in Montgomery County, Maryland

Administration of an estate begins in the Office of the Register of Wills of Montgomery County.  If there is a will, the designated personal representative files a Petition for Administration with the Register.  If there is no will or a named personal representative cannot serve, one of the individuals designated under state law may apply to the Register. 

If the Register approves the request, the personal representative receives Letters of Administration, which authorize the personal representative to proceed with administration of the estate.  In administering the estate, the personal representative follows a detailed process administered by the Register of Wills. The entire process occurs on a set schedule. 

The Montgomery County Circuit Court, sitting as the Orphans’ Court, supervises probate and estate administration.  The Court itself hears matters relating to controversial issues in estates.  With regard to probate and estate matters, the Register of Wills functions as the Clerk for the Orphans’ Court.

Estate Administration Processes

The Register of Wills uses specialized terms relating to probate and estate administration.  If you become involved in a probate or administration process, you may hear some of these terms. 

Non-probate estate refers to property that passes outside the probate process.  Probate estate refers to property and assets that go through the required probate process.

Administrative Probate refers to a proceeding initiated with the Register by an interested person.  The proceeding may request appointment of a personal representative and probate of a will or the determination of intestacy of the decedent.

Modified Administration refers to a version of administrative probate that is available if certain requirements are met.  It provides a streamlined process for administering an estate.

Judicial Probate applies to proceedings conducted in the Orphans’ Court.  Certain circumstances necessitate judicial probate, including a physically damaged will, a will contest or challenge, or a dispute about who will serve as personal representative.

For any estate, the total value of the probate assets and the circumstances surrounding the estate determine the specific administration process for the estate.  Generally, an estate subject to the procedure for a regular estate is one with probate assets over $50,000, or over $100,000 if the sole heir or legatee is the surviving spouse.  A different small estate procedure applies to an estate with probate assets valued at $50,000 or less (or $100,000 for a surviving spouse heir or legatee).

With administration of any estate, there are numerous forms to file, documents to submit, and tasks to complete.  The process often varies, depending on the specific circumstances of the estate.  To complete the process according to all the legal requirements, assistance from an experienced probate and estate administration attorney is essential.

Talk With an Experienced Rockville, Maryland Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer

Attorney Henry Nash has substantial experience helping family members and personal representatives with probate and estate administration matters in Montgomery County, Maryland.  At The Law Office of Henry Nash, we work with clients in Rockville, throughout Montgomery County, and elsewhere in Maryland.

If you have questions or concerns about any issues relating to probate and estate administration in Montgomery County, Maryland, we welcome you to call us at (301) 998-6111 or contact us through our online form.

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