Maryland Probate Attorney
When a loved one or family member passes away, his or her financial affairs may need to be probated. Probate is the legal process of finalizing a person’s financial affairs by paying debts and distributing assets to heirs. The person appointed to administer the probate estate is called the Personal Representative. A Personal Representative may want to hire a Maryland probate attorney to assist with the probate process, especially if the person is not familiar with the duties and responsibilities associated with administering a probate estate in Maryland.
The Probate Process is a Legal Matter
The probate process involves a certain amount of legal responsibility. The court-supervised process can also be confusing, time-consuming, and stressful. My goal is to simplify the procedure for you by guiding you through the process and legal challenges of finalizing your loved one’s financial affairs. By preparing court documents and assuming many responsibilities of probating an estate, I free you up to focus on your family and copingwith your loss.
The Process for Probate Administration in Maryland
Many people assume that the probate process is complex, costly, and lengthy. However, the complexity, cost, and length of a probate estate depend upon the factors involved in your specific case. In addition, disputes by heirs can make a simple estate much more complicated and stressful.
Typically, most probate estates involve:
Filing a petition with the probate court to open the estate. This step is required regardless of whether the deceased had a will or did not have a will at the time of death. However, some forms for an intestate estate (an estate without a will) are slightly different.
Appointing a Personal Representative to be in charge of administering the estate. The Personal Representative has numerous duties and responsibilities regarding the person’s assets and debts.
Notifying heirs and creditors of the estate. Heirs are notifiedof the terms of the will or if no will exists. Creditors must be giventhe opportunity to file claims with the estate for payment of debts.
Identifying and Inventorying Assets for the estate. Sometimes, a Personal Representative may need to secure assets to prevent heirs from taking assets before debts are paid,anda proposal for distribution is approved. A Personal Representative may have to liquidate assets for the estate. For large assets, an appraisal may have to determine the current market value.
Opening an estate bank account to manage liquid assets of the estate and to pay bills. A Personal Representative transfers assets from other financial accounts to the estate bank account so the funds may be accountedfor throughout the probate process. Any funds received by the estate, such as proceeds of life insurance policies or proceeds from the sale of assets, are deposited into the estate’s bank account.
Reviewing and paying claims of the estate and other debts of the decedent. Sometimes, a Personal Representative may need to object to claims if the claims are not valid debts of the decedent.
Completing and filing a final income tax return and estate tax returns to pay any taxes owed by the individual or the estate. It is extremely important that all tax returns are filed, and taxes are paidbefore assets are disbursedfrom the estate.
Distributing assets to heirsaccording to the terms of the will or pursuant to a court order. If heirs argue about the distribution ofassets, the Personal Representative may need to petition the court for an order settling disputes before assets are distributed.
Preparing and filing a final accounting and documents to close the probate estate.
The above steps may not include all the stepsyou need to complete to finalize your loved one’s probate estate. However, helped by a Maryland probate attorney, you can do what is necessary, including facing any challenges such as resolving disputes between heirs, will contests, or claims against the estate.
Probate Estates Without A Will
If your loved one died without a will, you mightstill need to file a probate estate to distribute assets legally among heirs. The Maryland intestate laws determine how a person’s assets are distributedwhen the person died without a will.
Intestate laws dictate who may or may not be an heir of the estate. Also, the intestate laws state the specific percentage of the estate each heir may receive. Usually an intestate estate proceeds through the above steps just like an estate involving a will. However, there are additional steps you may have to perform when your loved one died without a will.
Therefore, consulting a Maryland probate attorney is usually one of the best ways you can ensure that you cover all steps required to probate an estate when a valid will does not exist.
Estates That Involve Trust Agreements
Your loved one may have drafted one or more trust agreements as part of his or her estate plan. If you are not the trustee, there may be nothing you need to do unless the trust disburses assets directly to the probate estate.
However, if you are namedas a trustee, your duties and responsibilities as trustee are separate and in addition to your responsibilities as a Personal Representative. Some trust agreements end when the person dies, but some trust agreements may survive the person’s death. Hiring a Maryland probate attorney to assist with trust administration can be beneficial, especially when the trust involves a minor child, a person with special needs, or property that must be liquidated and disbursed to the trust beneficiaries.
Preparing to Open a Probate Estate
Locating the will, insurance documents, deeds, titles, financial statements, and other important documents can be time-consuming and frustrating. For some individuals, completing lengthy probate documents, filing documents with the court, sending notices, and preparing inventories and accounts is too much to handle as they process their loss and try to care for their family.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of preparing to open a probate estate, a Maryland probate attorney can help. I understand the probate process and the complications that may arise during the probate process. I also understand that probate administration is not always simple and quick.
Experience You Can Trust
If you have questions about the probate process or you want a Maryland probate attorney to handle the probate estate for you, contact my office. I am here to provide support and guidance as you go through finalizing your loved one’s affairs after his or her death.