As the Personal Representative or Executor of a will, it’s helpful to know what to expect once the probate process begins. Let’s take a look at the early stages of this process so you can be better prepared for what comes next.
The Purpose of Probate
The purpose of the probate process is to accomplish the following once a person has passed away:
- Establish the validity of the decedent’s will
- Settle the decedent’s debts, including any taxes
- Distribute the assets according to the decedent’s will
Beginning Stages of the Probate Process
Gathering Necessary Documents
Your first step will be to collect important documents that will be required in for probate. This includes the original will, as well as a copy of the decedent’s death certificate. Additional documents and information that may be useful or required are:
- A copy of the paid funeral bill
- Any Insurance policies
- Property appraisals
- Bank account information
- Information about stocks, bonds and investment accounts
- Tax returns
- Information about other assets (such as vehicles, business interests, etc.)
- The names and addresses of those people named in the Will
Filing the Initial Papers
An estate is opened in Maryland by filing a Petition with the Register of Wills in the county in which the decedent lived. As part of the Petition you will submit a list of “interested persons”—people who are named in the Will, and people who would be entitled to inherit if there were no Will. These people will be given notice that an estate has been opened, and they will have the opportunity to object to the appointing of the Executor or Personal Representative. This is commonly a formality and usually does not require an actual court hearing. When the Personal Representative has been is approved and appointed, the court issues an order that officially opens the estate, and the Personal Representative is given Letters of Administration.
Notifying Creditors and Beneficiaries
It is then the Personal Representative’s responsibility to send notices of probate to the decedent’s beneficiaries and known creditors, and to publish a notice to creditors in a newspaper. In most cases the court requires the Personal Representative to post bond, to protect the beneficiaries from losses to the estate that are caused by the actions of the Personal Representative—either thorough dishonesty or mistake. (It is important to note that while the Personal Representative has no personal liability for the debts of the decedent, they can be held personally liable for mistakes they make in the probate process.)
These are just the first few phases of the probate process. If you are a Personal Representative or Executor of a will, it’s often useful to work with a licensed attorney to help you navigate the process with as little stress and worry as possible, and to avoid costly mistakes.
Your Probate Court Lawyer in Carroll County
DK Rus has over 25 years of experience as an estate planning lawyer in Maryland. Her practice focuses on estate planning and probate law and she is dedicated to making the process as smooth as possible for every client. The probate process can be long and confusing, which is why DK Rus offers a free initial consultation and is always available to answer any questions you may have. Contact our law firm to schedule your consultation today.