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How do I know if my property needs to go through the probate?

If the property is owned by an individual that passed away and the deed does not automatically transfer the property to another person or entity at the time of the owner’s death.

What documents do I need to have if in order to begin probate?

Death certificate of owner, death certificate of any joint owners (if any); will, trust, or estate planning documents created before decedent’s death, bank account statements for accounts solely in decedent’s name, retirement account statements for accounts in decedent’s name with no successor beneficiary, title to any cars, list of other personal property with appraised value if available, and list of decedent’s family members with their addresses, phone numbers, and their relationship to the decedent to the extent available. Also, once the petitioner is ready to file for probate they will need to undergo a background check and credit check in order to obtain a personal representative bond unless the bond requirement is waived by all heirs or waived by the will.

Do all family members need to agree to open up an estate once someone has passed away?

Only the person that wants to be appointed as personal representative has to move forward with filing a petition for probate, but once this person is appointed as personal representative, they have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the estate (hence, in the best interest of all the heirs).

What is the job of a Personal Representative of the estate?

The PR has a fiduciary duty to account for and protect the estate property from waste, defend against any claims made against the estate, distribute the property of the decedent and perform all other acts required by the decedent’s will or the intestate laws of the applicable jurisdiction.

Does a separate bank account need to be opened in order to handle the estate financial matters?

A PR has to deposit all estate property in a bank account in the name of the estate once the PR has been appointed to serve.

Do I need to hire an attorney to open up an estate and go through probate?

You can handle some estates on your own as long as the decedent’s estate is not complicated, the decedent does not have many claims, the heirs are all in agreement on how the estate should be handled, and there aren’t any large inheritance tax issues at play.

How do I know whether to open up a small estate or a large estate?

It differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and differs based on the date of the decedent’s death, but generally if there is real property at play, then a large estate will be needed since small estate are generally capped at $50,000 in Maryland and $40,000 for the District of Columbia with certain exceptions in both jurisdictions to these limits.

How long does it typically take to go through the probate process?

You can typically get appointed as PR in a matter of days or weeks in both D.C. and Maryland, with Maryland having the faster appointment process, but the process after the appointment can stretch on for months if not years, depending on the amount of assets that need to be distributed, the amount of claims filed, and the amount of accounting that need to be filed before the court is pleased that the PR has upheld their fiduciary duty.

Is the probate process different for each county or state?

All the counties in Maryland are bound by the same laws, but some county’s process their petitions differently. The estate and trust laws differ from state to state.