After a person passes away, an estate must be established in order to distribute the person’s assets. If a decedent has drafted a will, this process can be easier, but if a person does not have a will, an estate can still be established. Individuals in Maryland and elsewhere should know a few of the steps involved in administering an estate.
The probate process involves appointing a person to administer an estate and giving that person the authority to take steps to distribute assets. If the decedent wrote a will, the person appointed to be the executor of the estate under a will can usually ask a court to grant this individual the power to administer an estate. If no executor is specified, a close relative of the decedent can ask the court to act on the estate’s behalf.
After the assets of an estate are inventoried, the person administering an estate must typically pay all recognized claims against the estate. This includes taxes, funeral bills and any other debts that the decedent may have owed and for which creditors have provided the proper notice.
After all debts are paid, the person administrating an estate distributes assets to people entitled to such assets. If a will has been executed, the individuals listed in the will are generally entitled to assets specified by the decedent. If no will has been executed, then state law will decide who gets the assets; under such rules, spouses, children and parents may be entitled to the assets.
The person administering an estate also needs to file paperwork for the estate, such as state and federal tax returns, court documents and other materials. Because there are technical aspects of this process, it makes sense to speak with an experienced estate lawyer when administering an estate.