In Maryland, estate administration is a court-supervised legal procedure that is generally required after someone dies. The purpose of estate administration is to make sure that the decedent’s property is transferred to the appropriate people and to also make sure that the decedent’s debts and taxes are paid. In Maryland, estate cases are handled by the Orphan’s Court and Register of Wills. Md. Code, Est. & Trusts § 2-101. There’s an Orphan’s Court in each of the 23 counties in Maryland as well as in Baltimore City.
Maryland Personal Representative
While the Orphan’s Court has jurisdiction over estate matters in Maryland, the personal representative is responsible for the day-to-day activities of estate administration. Md. Code, Est. & Trusts § 7-101. The process begins with the person who wishes to be personal representative filing a petition for probate with the court, along with the decedent’s death certificate and will, if any. Once the court formally approves the petitioner and issues letters of administration, the personal representative has the legal authority to manage the decedent’s estate. The personal representative must also notify interested parties such as beneficiaries and heirs, that the administration process is underway.
Responsibilities of a Personal Representative in Maryland
Once appointed, the personal representative must take charge the estate and move forward with the activities required to settle the decedent’s affairs and distribute the estate’s assets.
- Manage decedent’s property. The personal representative must figure what property is part of the estate. This might be limited to the decedent’s house, the contents of the decedent’s house, the decedent’s vehicle, and bank account. Or, property may be more extensive and may be in the hands of other people. The personal representative must secure the property and protect it from loss. They must also determine the value of the property, hiring professional appraisers if necessary. The information about estate property and its value must be compiled in an inventory and filed with the court. Md. Code, Est. & Trusts § 7-601. If the estate includes the decedent’s small business, the personal representative may be required to make sure that the business continues during the administration process.
- Notify creditors. To begin the process of paying the decedent’s debt, the personal representative is required to notify the decedent’s creditors. This is done through the mail to known creditors and through newspaper publication to all other creditors. Md. Code, Est. & Trusts § 7-103.1
- Pay valid claims. After the claims are reviewed, the personal representative is required to pay the deceased’s debts from estate funds and not from their own person assets. In addition to the decedent’s debts, the personal representative must also pay expenses of administration such as filing fees and fees for professional services. Md. Code, Est. & Trusts § 8-105.
- File tax returns. The personal representative must file the decedent’s outstanding personal returns as well as returns required to be filed by the estate. If any taxes are due, the personal representative must pay them from estate assets.
- Distribute the assets. Before distributing assets, the personal representative must first receive permission from the court. The court will not grant permission until it is satisfied that all debts and expenses have been paid or otherwise cared for. The personal representative will then distribute assets based on the decedent’s will or based on state law.
- File accounts. The personal representative is required to file written accounts with the court at the end of administration and at other times as required by the court. It is critical that the personal representative keep detailed, accurate records of everything they do during the estate administration process. These records should include income to the estate and payments from the estate, such as payments to creditors, expenses, and distributions.
Probate Disputes in Maryland
In addition to the routine administration activities listed above, the personal representative must handle unexpected issues that develop during administration such as disputes. When a dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation, litigation is required. Reasons for disputes during the administration process include will contests, contested creditors’ claims, and objections to accountings.