When a person dies, the probate court will supervise the management of their assets before and during distribution. With a will, the court will follow the deceased’s/decedent’s wishes. But without, they will observe an orderly process to distribute assets fairly. In Maryland, this is the duty of the Orphans’ courts.
Do all estates go to the Orphans’ court? Here is what you should know:
It all depends on what the decedent owned at their death
If the decedent left a will or died “intestate” without one but still has property of any kind solely in their name, their estate must be probated – but not all their assets may be part of the estate.
Property that is not solely held in a decedent’s name will not go to probate. Examples include proceeds from insurance policies, property owned under joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety and property held as “payable on death.” That often includes real estate, bank accounts, investments and retirement funds. Further, assets held in revocable and irrevocable trusts don’t go to probate unless the trust terminates upon their death and allows assets to be distributed to the estate.
It’s also important to note that if the decedent had no assets in their name, no probate proceedings are required (although a will, if it exists, must still be filed with the Register of Wills.)
Probate can be complicated. If you are a personal representative or an interested party, you should obtain more information to avoid costly mistakes.