If you are in the process of planning for your estate, understanding the probate process is critical. Probate can be a complex and time-consuming process that may impact your loved ones’ inheritance, making it essential to understand how it works and whether it is always necessary. In this article, we’ll explore the question on everyone’s mind: Do all Wills go through probate in Maryland?
The answer to the question-Do all Wills go through probate in Maryland?-is YES, if there are probate assets in the Will. All Wills containing probate assets go through probate in Maryland. However, not all assets go through the probate process.
In this article, we will:
- Specifically answer the question, “Do all Wills go through probate in Maryland?”
- Explain which assets do and do not go through probate.
- Detail the advantages of avoiding probate, when possible.
Table of Contents
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that occurs after someone passes away (called the “decedent”). During the probate process, a decedent’s estate is administered, taxes and debts are paid, and assets are distributed to heirs (also called “legatees”) according to their Last Will and Testament-if one is available. Understanding the probate process is crucial for anyone creating a well-structured estate plan.
The probate process, at a glance:
- Locating the Will: Find the decedent’s Will, if one exists. The Will typically outlines the person’s wishes regarding the distribution of assets. It also names a personal representative.
- Opening probate: The personal representative must file a petition with the Register of Wills to initiate the probate process. If there’s no Will, the court will appoint a personal representative based on the rules of priority order.
- Inventory and appraisal: The personal representative creates an inventory of the decedent’s assets, including real estate, personal property, and financial accounts, and then determines the value of that inventory-sometimes with the assistance of an appraiser.
- Notice to creditors: The personal representative notifies all known creditors.
- Paying debts and taxes: The personal representative pays outstanding valid debts-such as taxes-using the assets of the estate. This may require selling some assets.
- Distribution of assets: The remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as outlined in the Will, or according to Maryland’s intestate succession laws if there’s no Will.
- Administration accounts: An administration account must be filed with the Register of Wills nine months after the estate is opened, and subsequently every six months. This account reports the status of the estate’s administration for both the court and the heirs/legatees.
- Closing the estate: Once all tasks are completed, the personal representative files a final accounting report with the court and formally closes the estate.
All Wills Go Through Probate, but Not All Assets Do
In Maryland, the answer to whether all Wills go through probate is YES, but it’s important to note that not all assets are subject to the probate process. Understanding the distinction between assets that pass through probate and those that do not is crucial, as this can significantly impact the estate planning process. If there are no probate assets, a Will can be filed with the court simply reflecting a “Will with no estate.”
Assets That Go Through Probate
Most assets go through probate (called “probate assets”). These assets are typically owned solely by the decedent. Examples of assets that are subject to probate include:
- Real estate owned solely by the decedent or as a tenant in common.
- Personal property, such as vehicles, furniture, and collectibles.
- Bank accounts held solely in the decedent’s name.
- Stocks, bonds, and other investments held in the decedent’s name only.
Assets That Do Not Go Through Probate
Assets that do not go through probate in Maryland include those with beneficiary designations, transfer-on-death (TOD) or payable-on-death (POD) provisions, and assets held in joint ownership. Examples of these assets are:
- Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries.
- Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries.
- Jointly owned real estate.
- Bank accounts with POD provisions.
- Investment accounts with TOD registrations.
It is important to note that even if an asset does not go through probate, it may still be subject to inheritance tax or estate tax.
Advantages of Non-Probate Assets
There are many advantages to making certain assets avoid the probate process. Some advantages include:
- Expedited distribution of assets: Probate can be a lengthy process, sometimes taking years to complete. By avoiding probate, your loved ones can access their inheritance more quickly.
- Cost savings: Probate can be expensive, with fees and expenses associated with the administration. Assets that bypass probate can save money from the estate that would otherwise be spent on court fees and other administrative expenses.
- Privacy: Probate proceedings are a matter of public record. By avoiding probate, the details of your or your loved one’s estate remain private.
- Reduce emotional stress: During the lengthy probate process, your family may face uncertainty about their inheritance and the overall financial stability of the estate. By structuring your assets to avoid probate, you can alleviate the emotional burden on your family, ensuring they can grieve and heal without the added stress of navigating a complicated legal process.
It is advantageous to ensure that assets avoid the probate process, when possible. Structuring assets to avoid probate can save you money and time. It can also ensure privacy during what is already a challenging time. Structuring assets to avoid probate is done in the estate planning process. An experienced Estate Planning and Administration attorney will be able to create an estate plan that’s right for you.
How Working With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
Working with an estate planning lawyer to structure your assets in a way that minimizes or avoids probate can provide numerous benefits for you and your loved ones. An experienced estate planning and administration firm, like PathFinder Law Group, possesses a deep understanding of Maryland probate laws and can help you identify which assets are subject to probate and which are not.
PathFinder Law Group utilizes various estate planning tools, such as trusts, beneficiary designations, and joint ownership structures, that can help your assets bypass probate.
Collaborating with an estate planning lawyer allows you to develop a comprehensive plan tailored to your specific needs and goals. PathFinder Law Group provides a personalized approach that ensures efficient estate administration, protection of your privacy, and relief for your family from the emotional and financial burden of the probate process.
The answer to “Do all Wills go through probate in Maryland?” is yes. All Wills go through probate. However, not all assets do. Non-probate assets include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and jointly owned assets. Structuring your assets to avoid probate can save you time, money, and privacy. By working with an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney, you can structure certain assets to avoid the probate process entirely.
Contact PathFinder Law Group
PathFinder Law Group is a well-established Maryland estate planning firm that has helped scores of Maryland residents to create estate plans that truly make a difference. We can work with you to identify and structure your assets to avoid the probate process, saving your loved ones time, money, and privacy.
If you need help with estate planning or would like additional information related to the question “Do all Wills go through probate in Maryland?” contact us today or call (443) 579-4529 for a free consultation.
FAQs Related to “Do All Wills Go Through Probate in Maryland?”
What are beneficiary designations?
- Beneficiary designations are a legal way to specify who will inherit assets from financial accounts or insurance policies upon death, bypassing the probate process.
- Commonly used with life insurance policies and retirement accounts, these designations ensure a smooth and efficient transfer of assets to your chosen individual(s).
What is a “transfer-on-death” arrangement?
- An arrangement that allows someone to directly pass assets, like stocks or bonds, to a chosen heir when they die.
What is a “payable-on-death” bank account?
- A bank account that automatically transfers its balance to a designated beneficiary upon the account holder’s death.
What is a “tenant in common”
- A type of co-ownership of property, where multiple individuals hold an undivided interest in the property.
If you have additional questions related to “Do all Wills go through probate in Maryland?” contact us today!