While some questions require a more complex analysis, please take a moment to review our most frequently asked questions:
What is a will?
A will is a written document that was legally executed. Maryland law requires that a will be singed and witnessed by two individuals, and that the testator be of sound mind. Technically, a will does not have to be drafted by a lawyer, but it is strongly suggested due to the complexity of estate law. The will “speaks” at the testators death, thus why it is referred to as “the last testament.”
How will I know if the decedent had a will?
The most common places a will is kept are: safe deposit boxes, safes, attorney’s officesWhile not always possible, it is recommended to locate the original will while the testator is alive. Losing a loved one is hard, and searching for a will after the death can only add stress to the process. It is highly recommended to store the original will with the attorney who drafted it, or the Register of Wills.
What if I can only find a copy?
Under Maryland law, the original will is required. If the original cannot be located, you as the personal representative, or interested person would have to have all of the interested parties agree to have a copy of the will probated. This form must be filled out and filed with the Register of Wills.
What if the decedent didn’t have a will?
If the decedent did not have a will, the intestate laws of Maryland will apply. These laws portion the estate based off of relationship to the decedent, typically providing certain percentages to heirs and family members. The percentage that you may be allowed will depend on who survives the decedent and how much money is in the estate.
What are the first steps I need to take after a loved one dies?
There are several steps that need to be taken after a loved one dies. Those steps are laid out in the opening the estate section of this website. They include: finding the will, filing the proper forms, appraisals, obtaining death certificate, etc.
Do I need a death certificate?
Yes. A death certificate is one of the required documents that is needed to open an estate. A death certificate can be obtained by the funeral home or the vital records department. Usually only one is needed, but it is recommended that you have several certified copies as a backup.
Do I need to pay the bills that come in the mail?
What are my rights as a spouse?
What if there are insufficient funds in the estate?
Fortunately, there is a law which designates who has the priority to be paid if there are insufficient funds. The Register of Wills fees are first on the list, followed by court costs and administration fees, followed by funeral expenses. Funeral expenses can get expensive, the statutory limit is $15,000.00. If there are any assets left in the estate, family allowances are next, followed by taxes and so forth. The order is laid out by statute, but it is recommended you speak with a probate attorney to obtain legal advice.
How will I know how to open the estate?
Do I need a lawyer?
How can a lawyer help?
What if someone contests the will?
Can anyone bring a claim against the estate?