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What happens if an executor doesn’t file a will with the court?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2020 | Estate Planning

An executor of an estate must generally step in and file an individual’s will with the county probate court when a testator dies. An executor only has a set number of days to do this after a testator’s death. The decedent’s personal representative may face both civil and criminal penalties if they fail to do this in a timely fashion.

A will must generally be filed to open up the probate case. The amount of time that the testator has to file such a case may be as short as 30 days or as long as 90 days. It’s the personal representative’s responsibility to check with the probate court to find out how long they have to do this. They’ll generally need to acquire and file a death certificate when opening up the probate case.

Personal representatives generally won’t be held criminally liable for failing to file a decedent’s will with the probate court. The executor may be charged with a crime if they intentionally delay filing the decedent’s will with the court for some type of financial gain. It’s quite probable for an executor to be held civilly liable for the delay though. This is especially the case if the value of the property contained in the estate declines.

It’s the responsibility of the personal representative to facilitate the transfer of property to the heirs. An executor may find oneself on the hook paying for a testator’s debts if they end up turning over property to the heirs before satisfying all the decedent’s debts.

One of the reasons that estate planning attorneys always recommend that testators speak with potential personal representatives about the responsibilities associated with this role is because it’s not easy. This is especially the case if an executor hasn’t ever assumed this role before.

Your Frederick lawyer can help you prepare your personal representative for this important responsibility. Your attorney can also be there for your executor when it’s time to act so that they’re not held civilly or criminally liable for how they handle your Maryland estate.