If you recently experienced the loss of your mother, you are undoubtedly still mourning her loss. Probating her estate is the last thing you probably want to focus on; however, someone needs to do so. If that person is you, one of the first decisions you need to make is to decide if formal probate is necessary or if an alternative is an option. It is always best to consult with an experienced probate attorney when making such an important decision. The Annapolis probate lawyers at Sinclair Prosser Gasior explain how you might be able to avoid formal probate for your mother’s estate.
If you have never been involved in the probate of an estate before, it helps to start by explaining what probate is and why it is required. Most people leave behind an estate when the die. The estate consists of everything the decedent owned, or had an ownership interest in, at the time of death. This may include real and personal property as well as tangible and intangible assets. The law wants to ensure that all of those assets are accounted for and eventually transferred to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. The law also wants to allow creditors of the estate to make claims against the estate and to allow people to challenge a Will if one is submitted to the court.
While there is no doubt that formal probate if often necessary to ensure that a moderate to large estate is handled properly following the death of the estate’s owner, there is little reason for smaller estates to go through the same process. A complex estate can take months, even years, to get through the formal probate process. Along with the time it takes to get through formal probate, it can also be very expensive which will diminish the value of the estate that is ultimately passed down to loved ones.
Does My Mother’s Estate Qualify for Small Estate Administration?
Before you can decide if your mother’s estate qualifies for an alternative to formal probate you must identify the estate assets that will be part of the probate process and then calculate the value of those assets. When calculating the value of the estate assets you only include probate assets. This is because non-probate assets bypass the probate process altogether. Common examples of assets that are considered non-probate assets include:
- Assets held in a trust
- Certain types of jointly held property
- Proceeds of a life insurance policy
- Accounts designated as “Payable on Death (POC)” or “Transfer on Death (TOD)”
- Certain retirement or pension accounts
Knowing that formal probate can be both time consuming and costly, most states offer an alternative to formal probate for smaller estates. Each state determines what qualifies as a “small” estate and what the procedures are available for distributing estate assets when using alternatives to formal probate. In Maryland, a small estate alternative to formal probate may be available for an estate if the assets subject to administration are valued at $50,000 or less ($100,000 if the spouse is the sole legatee or heir). If the estate qualifies, you can use a small estate affidavit in lieu of going through the lengthier process of formal probate.
Contact an Annapolis Probate Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about avoiding formal probate, contact an experienced Annapolis probate attorney at Sinclair Prosser Gasior by calling (410) 573-4818 to schedule an appointment.