Probate for Small MD Estates

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Courthouse for estate probate

In Maryland, small estates can significantly simplify probate via small estate administration.

Requirements for Small Estate Administration

In Maryland, an estate qualifies as "small" if its probate value is <$50,000 (or $100,000 if a surviving spouse is the sole inheritor).

In calculating estate value, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts (other than secured debt such as liens and mortgages). Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

Process

If the estate qualifies as small, you can simplify the probate process as follows:

  1. Petition: Submit a Small Estate Petition for Administration (Form RW-1103) and a copy of the death certificate to the court (see below)
  2. Notice: If it appears that the estate is solvent (can pay all debts), include a Small Estate Notice of Appointment (Form RW-1109) in the submission so the court can publish required notices
  3. Bond: Obtain and submit any bond Form RW-1115 required by the court (unless the requirement is waived by the will, or waived by all interested persons, or the estate has a gross value <$10K after accounting for expected family allowances and estate administration expenses
  4. Letters: The court will appoint you as personal representative for the estate, and give you your "Letters"
  5. Settle: After any required notice waiting period and hearing for objections, the court will give you permission to settle the estate in the normal manner (collect all assets, pay all obligations, distribute assets)

Vehicles and Boats

If the only property in the estate is a vehicle (or at most 2 vehicles), and a surviving spouse is the sole inheritor, then no probate administration is required and you can transfer the title(s) directly with the Motor Vehicle Administration.

If the only property in the estate is a boat worth <$5,000, and a surviving spouse is the sole inheritor, then no probate administration is required and you can transfer the title(s) directly with the agency that issued the original title.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any MD Family Entitlements, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.

Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so you should arrange to have all debts resolved before distributing assets. Unpaid estate creditors have the right to sue heirs for the value of any distributions received using the approaches described on this page.

Personal representatives (i.e., executors) using this small estate process are not entitled to compensation, but any reasonable expenses should be reimbursed.

If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.

See also Making Distributions.

No Small Estate Affidavit

Many people ask about using a small estate affidavit without any court involvement, but MD does not support such an affidavit. You must use above method (or full probate) for handling small estates in MD.

Court

In Maryland, the county Orphans' Court handles wills and estate probate. To find your court, use this link and click on the county name along the left side of the page.

See MD Est & Trusts Code §§ 5-601 to 608 for statute details.

See also General Probate.

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