Probate is the legal process of “proving” a will, and can vary depending on the value of the estate and
the presence of a comprehensive will. Here, the estate attorneys at The Law Office of James A. List
explain the steps involved in probate.
Determine Estate Size
In Maryland, probate procedure is determined by the size of the estate: either regular or small. A regular
estate is one whose fair market value equals $30,000 or more—in the instance of a surviving spouse
inheriting the entire estate, the value increases to $50,000. A regular estate must go through traditional
probate within the Maryland Orphan’s Court, but a small estate valued under $30,000 is eligible for
modified administration: A faster and more streamlined process, which must be approved by all the
heirs to the estate.
Appointing an Executor
The court appoints an executor of the will, also known as the personal representative, if one is not named in the will, or approved by the
court after the will is deemed valid. An individual must petition the Orphan’s Court to become the personal representative. If they are
approved, they must file a Petition for Administration and a Schedule A generally describing the estate’s assets.
The personal representative must then post a bond to act for the estate, after which the estate will be
considered “open” for probate. The personal representative is then required to inform any creditors
that it is now time to file any applicable claims against the estate.
Taking Inventory of the Estate
Each estate must be inventoried, meaning all property should be accounted for and given a fair market
value. This can include personal property, real estate, cash assets and more. Any jointly-owned property
will automatically be inherited by the joint owner. If a living trust was established, this too will avoid
probate, and instead go automatically to the beneficiaries of the trust.
Pay Debts and Distribute Property
Debts, expenses and taxes are paid upon completion of the estate inventory. A tax return for
the estate, as well as a personal income tax return for the decedent is filed for the final year of their life.
Creditors are paid what they are owed, and any remaining property is distributed according to the will. If
the will does not specify the inheritors of the property, the property is distributed based on probate law.
Primary beneficiaries, such as the spouse, parents and children of the decedent will typically inherit the
property. If primary beneficiaries do not exist, secondary beneficiaries, such as siblings or cousins,
inherit the property. It is only if a decedent has no beneficiaries that their estate be subject to the state:
the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, or the Board of Education in the county where
they passed away, will receive the property.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Attorney About Probate
At The Law Offices of James List, estate law and proceedings are our specialty. With years of experience
handling estate preparation, trust funds, probate and more, our dedicated and knowledgeable attorneys
are sure to handle any estate and inheritance situation quickly and effectively, helping prevent undue
stress and frustration for the decedent’s loved ones. For more information, or to schedule a
consultation, contact us today—we look forward to helping you in your time of need.