Determining A Decedent’s Domicile

        Determining a decedent’s domicile is important for a number of reasons.  For example, Maryland law requires that the person who has possession of an original executed Will must file that Will with the Register Of Wills in the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death. If probate administration is commenced, it must be filed in the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death.  Only one probate proceeding may be instituted, so that if it is discovered after filing a Petition For Probate that the decedent was domiciled in another county, the Petition and all other documents filed would have to be transferred to the county where the decedent had been domiciled at the time of their death.

        If a decedent was not domiciled in Maryland, then the county where the largest value of their property was located at the time of their death, is the county which has jurisdiction.

        In most situations, the determination as to the location of a person’s domicile is a relatively easy one. Maryland courts have concluded that a person’s domicile can be determined by identifying the location where the decedent had his or her true, fixed, and permanent home, from which they had no intention of moving, and whenever absent, always intended to return to that location.

          Under some circumstances however, the determination as to the location of a decedent’s domicile is muchmore difficult to ascertain.  For example, if a decedent became incompetent and was then moved from their home in one county to a nursing home in another county, which county could be considered to be their domicile?  Maryland courts have held that in order for a person to change their domicile, there must be an actual removal to another jurisdiction along with an intention of remaining there permanently, or for at least an unlimited period of time.  Therefore if a person is not mentally competent when their residence is changed, the requirement that they intended to change their domicile to the new location would be lacking; absent a court-appointed guardian.

February 15, 2015