The probate procedure is fairly complex in Maryland and can take a great deal of time to complete, but the rules are not as strict when the assets being distributed are valued at $50,000 or less. If the decedent’s surviving spouse is the sole heir, this figure is increased to $100,000. Before the process can begin, the last will and testament must be filed with the Registrar of Wills in the county where the decedent lived. The Registrar of Wills then appoints a personal representative to administer the estate, which is usually the executor named in the will.
Assets must be appraised before small estates can be administered. Cash, bank accounts, money owed to the decedent and stocks listed on recognized exchanges can be appraised by the personal representative designated by the Registrar of Wills, but the value of other assets must be established by a qualified and independent appraiser. This is done in probate proceedings to verify the size of the estate and determine whether or not taxes must be paid.
Once the estate’s assets have been appraised, a Petition for Probate should be submitted to the Registrar of Wills with a Schedule B attached. All of the necessary paperwork is available from the Registrar of Wills. Other documents required to complete the process include:
• The names and addresses of all heirs
• Proof that the will was properly executed
• Information about property not subject to probates like jointly owned assets and retirement accounts
• A paid funeral bill
• A copy of the decedent’s death certificate
Maryland residents who wish to spare their loved ones from the stress of probate should consider placing their assets in trusts. These assets are not subject to probate because they are no longer owned by the grantor, which simplifies estate administration and keeps these matters private. Trusts also give individuals far more control over how their assets are distributed and may provide tax benefits.