What Triggers Probate in Maryland?

Probate is the legal process where a person’s belongings are sorted out and given to their family or heirs after they pass away. It involves making sure debts are paid and assets are distributed according to the person’s will or state rules if there is no will.

There are several potential triggers for probate in Maryland such as the absence of a valid will, the need to validate a will, or the need to resolve a dispute among heirs. Fortunately, our legal professionals can explain these triggers and the potential consequences of probate in your case.

Get help from our Maryland wills and estate planning lawyers by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.

Probate Triggers in Maryland

There are several potential triggers for probate in Maryland. Understanding these triggers can help you make informed decisions regarding your estate plan.

Intestate Succession

Intestate succession is one of the primary triggers for probate in Maryland. When an individual passes away without a valid will, their estate enters probate to determine the distribution of assets. In the absence of explicit instructions, intestate succession laws will govern the allocation of the deceased person’s property among legal heirs.

If your loved one died without creating a will, then our Maryland wills and estate planning attorneys can explain how intestate succession laws may be applied.

Validating the Will

Another time probate may be initiates is when there is a need to validate a deceased individual’s will. This process involves submitting the will to the appropriate court for approval. The court examines the document’s authenticity, ensuring it meets legal requirements. If the will is contested or deemed invalid, the estate may proceed to probate for resolution.

Assets Without Designated Beneficiaries

Probate proceedings may also be triggered when assets are not assigned to beneficiaries. Bank accounts, investments, or real estate that lack clear beneficiary designations become subject to the probate process. This ensures a proper legal examination and distribution of the assets among the deceased individual’s heirs.

Invalid Beneficiary Designations

Furthermore, assets with invalid or unclear beneficiary designations may necessitate probate. If the designated beneficiary is deceased or cannot be determined, then the court intervenes to determine the rightful heirs and oversee the proper distribution of the assets at issue.

Creditor Claims and Debts

Probate in Maryland may be triggered by outstanding debts and creditor claims against the deceased individual’s estate. The probate process ensures a systematic approach to settling these financial obligations, providing a transparent mechanism for creditors to submit claims and for the estate to address and resolve them appropriately.

Disputes Among Heirs

Disputes among heirs over the distribution of assets can lead to probate proceedings. When disagreements arise regarding the interpretation of the will or the rightful beneficiaries, the court intervenes to resolve conflicts and ensure a fair and lawful distribution of the estate’s assets.

Real Estate Ownership in Multiple States

If the deceased person owned real estate in multiple states, probate may be triggered in each jurisdiction where property is held. This is because each state has its own probate laws and processes, and the court must oversee the distribution of assets within its jurisdiction.

Estate Tax Considerations

Lastly, estate tax considerations can trigger probate in Maryland, especially if the estate’s value exceeds certain thresholds. The probate process ensures compliance with state and federal tax laws, addressing any tax obligations before the final distribution of assets to the heirs.

Overview of the Probate Process in Maryland

As previously mentioned, probate is a legal process through which the court validates a deceased person’s will, if there is one, and oversees the administration of their estate. The primary goals of probate are to distribute the deceased person’s assets to beneficiaries and settle outstanding debts and taxes. The court ensures that the distribution of assets is carried out in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes, as specified in their will, or according to state laws if there is no will.

When we say probate is “triggered,” we mean that the legal process begins. Probate is typically initiated upon the death of an individual who owned assets solely in their name and did not make alternative arrangements, such as creating a living trust. The process involves filing the deceased person’s will (if one exists) with the court, appointing an executor (if named in the will) or an administrator (if there is no will), and then proceeding with the distribution of assets, payment of debts, and resolution of any outstanding issues.

Probate can be time-consuming and may involve fees and court oversight. Some individuals seek to minimize or avoid probate by employing estate planning strategies such as creating living trusts, designating beneficiaries on financial accounts, and utilizing joint ownership structures. This can help streamline the transfer of assets and reduce the administrative burden on the estate.

Using Small Estate Affidavits to Avoid Probate in Maryland

In Maryland, a Small Estate Affidavit is a legal tool that allows for a simplified and expedited process for settling smaller estates without undergoing the formal probate proceedings. This type of affidavit is particularly beneficial when the total value of the deceased individual’s assets falls below a certain threshold set by Maryland law.

To use a Small Estate Affidavit in Maryland, the person seeking to administer the estate, typically an heir or beneficiary, must prepare a sworn statement attesting to the deceased person’s assets and their value. This affidavit is then submitted to the probate court along with an inventory of the assets and any required supporting documentation, such as account statements or property appraisals. If the court approves the affidavit and finds it to be accurate, it can authorize the distribution of the estate without the need for a formal probate process.

The use of Small Estate Affidavits is advantageous because it offers a quicker resolution for estates of lesser value, avoiding the time-consuming and more complex procedures associated with formal probate. This streamlined approach helps save both time and money for the individuals involved, providing a more efficient means of transferring assets to the rightful heirs. However, it’s essential to ensure that the estate meets the specific criteria for eligibility under Maryland law to utilize this alternative method effectively.

Call Our Attorneys for Help with Your Estate Plan in Maryland

Seek support from our Ellicott City, MD wills and estate planning lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by dialing (410) 694-7291.