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What does it mean to open an estate?

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2019 | Probate

If you find yourself serving as a decedent’s personal representative or the executor of their estate for the first time, then it’s likely that you’re not exactly sure of all the responsibilities that you need to fulfill. There are many. The first step that you should take is to open the estate.

In case you’re wondering what opening an estate entails, it starts with you locating and filing a decedent’s last will and testament with the probate court in the county where the decedent resided.

A hearing will be scheduled in front of the probate judge soon after you file this document with the court.

You’ll be asked to execute “letters of testamentary” at that hearing. This gives you the official, legal authority to render decisions regarding an estate.

It’s possible for a decedent’s friends or relatives to open their estate if the decedent died without a will. That individual won’t necessarily be appointed as executor of the deceased individual’s estate if they do this, though. That right will ultimately be handled per Maryland intestate succession laws.

Close relatives are often considered for this role first. If none of them can be located or willing to accept this responsibility then a creditor may be appointed to this role instead as a last resort.

Opening an estate is only the first of many steps that an executor of an estate must take when a testator dies. A probate attorney here in Frederick can advise you of the many other responsibilities that come with being an individual’s personal representative here in Maryland. This includes inventorying assets, filing taxes and distributing assets to heirs. Speaking with a lawyer will give you the best chance of making sure that no stone is left unturned in handling the estate.