The death of a loved one is always a tragedy whether it was foreseen for some time, or sudden and unexpected. In the aftermath of your loved one’s passing, it is expected that family members, significant others, and close friends use their time to grieve, pay respects to the deceased, and share stories and memories. Unfortunately, there are other aspects of a death that must be dealt with as well, including burial and funeral arrangements, as well as settling the estate. This may or may not involve probate, a lengthy process that takes time, energy, and money in the best of circumstances, and in the worst can lead to rifts within the family, lawsuits, and more.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of proving the will and of property distribution upon a person’s death. During probate, a personal representative or “executor” is appointed to handle such matters as locating property and debts, paying taxes and bills, and administering assets to the beneficiaries. It is important to understand that probate is a legally required process in the State of Maryland, under many circumstances.
Why Forgoing Probate or Not Hiring a Probate Attorney is a Mistake
When you have a will and the decedent owned assets of any kind solely in his or her name, probate is guaranteed and required in order to transfer the assets. Moreover, probate is required whether there is a will or not. Common problems that families run into by not timely starting the probate process include the following:
- Missing tax filing deadlines and incurring fees and penalties;
- Creditors have more time to make claims against the estate;
- Assets can be turned over to the Maryland unclaimed property division instead of being distributed to beneficiaries; and
- There may be harsh penalties for the executor themselves.
These issues can easily be avoided through effective estate planning or by ensuring that the estate process is properly handled in a timely manner, with the guidance of an experienced probate attorney to help the executor navigate this process with minimal stress and expenses.
When Probate is Not Necessary
Probate can only be avoided with effective estate planning. If the probate assets are under $50,000 or under $100,000 if they pass to a surviving spouse, the estate can qualify as a “small estate.” Instead of going through the regular probate process, the assets can go through a statutory small estate proceeding, which often closes within a couple of months instead of a year for a regular probate. While the average American dies with $62,000 of debt, according to CBS News, that does not mean that probate, or a small estate proceeding, can be avoided, as it is required to transfer the assets to the heirs.
Call an Experienced Maryland Probate Administrator Today
Do not let the idea of probate scare you into inaction; at the same time, probate should be handled in a professional and timely manner to ensure that mistakes are mitigated. Whether you are the executor to the estate or not, an experienced Maryland probate attorney can help! Contact the attorneys at Frame & Frame for assistance. Call us at 410-255-0373 to schedule a free consultation today.