When someone passes away, it's the obligation of the executor, or the personal representative as it's known in Maryland, to settle the testator's estate in probate court. There are certain key pieces of information that every Maryland personal representative should know.
First, you should know that there are two primary types of estates in Maryland. If the decedent has assets with a value of $50,000 or less, then it's considered to be a small estate. This amount increases to $100,000 if their spouse is their only heir.
Under Maryland law, the widow or widower of the deceased is allowed to receive $10,000 to use for personal expenses after their spouse dies. Each unmarried, minor child is entitled to receive $5,000 each at the time of their parent's death.
One of the hardest parts of being an executor is knowing what assets need to pass through probate and which ones don't.
Property that doesn't have to pass through probate includes any annuities, insurance proceeds or pension benefits. The only case in which they may have to pass through the probate process is if there was no designated beneficiary or there's a trust that has been designated.
If there's property titled in more than one person's name, especially if it's listed as having "joint owners with right of survivorship," then it's not necessary for it to pass through the probate process. If the decedent and their spouse were listed as "tenants by the entirety" on the deed, then the property doesn't have to pass through this process either.
Those assets that have to pass through probate include any property that the decedent owned jointly with others as "tenants in common." Any property that was held by or solely titled in the decedent's name must pass through the probate process as well.
The probate process can be particularly difficult to understand, especially if you're a first-time executor who has little to no experience in administering estates. It can be helpful to have a probate attorney on hand to help you interpret a will and guide you in performing your assigned responsibilities here in Frederick.