Gathering information

In order to properly administer an estate, it is important to gather information about the decedent,  and identify their assets and the debts that they owed at the time of their death.

For example, it is imperative that a decedent’s correct legal name be stated on the Petition For Estate Administration when it is filed with the Register Of Wills.  Inquiry should be made as to whether the decedent was known by their legal name and/or any other alias or nickname.  If an alias or nickname were found to have been used by a decedent on bank or investment accounts for example, then both their legal and adopted names should be used to identify them on the Petition when it is first filed with the Register Of Wills. By doing so, you will facilitate the probate process and make it easier to identify and later transfer those assets.

It is also important to identify all of the assets that a decedent owned at the time of his or her death. As noted in earlier articles, if all of a decedent’s assets are titled solely in their name, and no individual or individuals are named as the beneficiary(ies) to receive those assets upon the decedent’s death, then Petition For Probate would have to be filed in order to transfer those assets. Whereas, if it is determined that a decedent did not own any probate assets, then a Probate Petition may not have to be filed.

A determination of the value of a decedent’s assets is also important because the amount of those assets will determine the type of estate that may be opened. In Maryland at the present time, an estate may be opened as a Regular Estate, or as a Small Estate, which generally is a less complicated estate to administer, and can usually be closed earlier than a Regular Estate. An estate may be opened as a Small Estate if a decedent’s probate assets are only to be distributed to the decedent’s surviving spouse, and those assets are valued at $100,000.00 or less. Whereas if the decedent’s assets by Will or intestacy succession are to be distributed to someone other than their spouse, and the value of their assets is equal to or less than $50,000.00a Small Estate may be opened by them. If an estate is opened as a Small Estate, then a list of all of the decedent’s creditors must be listed in the PetitionFor Probate that is filed, whereas when filing a Petition For a Regular Estate only an estimate of a decedent’s debts must be stated in the Petition.

Finally, under Maryland law, an individual who is appointed to serve as Personal Representative of a Small Estate is not entitled to receive a Personal Representative’s commission for the time they spend administering the estate.  Whereas, an individual who is appointed to serve as Personal Representative of a Regular Estate is entitled to be paid a certain percentage of the assets of the estate for services they perform in administering an estate.  

Authored by Valerie A. Rocco.  February 2015.