Probate Shortcuts in Maryland

Save time and money when you wrap up a simple estate in Maryland.

Updated by , Attorney George Mason University Law School
Updated 6/17/2024

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Maryland offers probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, your loved ones can use a procedure called a "small estate proceeding" to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle.

When Can You Use a Small Estate Proceeding in Maryland?

You can use a small estate proceeding in Maryland if the fair market value of the probate estate (see below) doesn't exceed:

  • $100,000, if a surviving spouse is the only inheritor, or
  • $50,000 otherwise.

(Md. Code Est. and Trusts § 5-601 (2024).)

The "probate estate" is all of the property the deceased person left behind that's subject to probate. Certain types of property don't count, such as:

So even relatively large estates might still qualify as a "small estate" for purposes of this proceeding.

The Steps of a Small Estate Proceeding in Maryland

Below is an overview of Maryland's small estate proceeding.

1. File the Petition for Administration of Small Estate

To open the small estate proceeding, a person entitled to serve as personal representative needs to file a Petition for Administration of Small Estate. This petition must include:

  • a statement that you've made a diligent search to discover all property and debts of the deceased person
  • a list of known property and its value
  • a list of known creditors and the amount of each claim, and
  • a statement of any pending legal proceedings to which the deceased person was a party.

(Md. Code Est. and Trusts § 5-602 (2024).)

If you're filing the petition, you'll also need to attach a certified copy of the death certificate, the will (if there was one), a list of assets and debts, and a list of "interested persons" (those who inherit under the will, if there is one, as well as those who would inherit under Maryland's intestacy laws if there were no will).

2. Pay Expenses

Once the register of wills authorizes you to act as the personal representative of the estate, it may authorize you to pay funeral expenses and family allowances (amounts that are set aside for a surviving spouse and minor children under Maryland law). The register also may authorize you to sell property to pay these expenses and allowances. (Md. Code Est. and Trusts § 5-603 (2024).)

3. Give Notice to Creditors

If there's anything left in the estate after paying for allowances and expenses, you'll likely need to give notice of the small estate proceeding to potential creditors. After they receive notice, creditors will have one month to file a claim. This time period is shorter than regular probate. (Md. Code Est. and Trusts § 5-603 (2024).)

4. Post a Bond

In some circumstances, you'll also need to post a bond while the proceeding is ongoing. This bond is essentially a type of insurance to protect the assets of the estate. (Md. Code Est. and Trusts § 5-604 (2024).)

5. Pay Debts and Distribute Property

Once you get the go-ahead from the court, you'll use the estate assets to pay any estate debts. After debts are paid, you'll distribute the remaining property to the inheritors.

While the small estate proceeding might seem a little complicated, rest assured that the procedure is much more streamlined than full probate. If your estate qualifies as a small estate, it won't have to jump through many of the hoops of full probate, and your loved ones will get the property sooner.

Probate Shortcut for Vehicles in Maryland

If the only property owned by a deceased person was one or two motor vehicles and the only inheritor is the surviving spouse, probate isn't required. The Motor Vehicle Administration can transfer title to the vehicles to the surviving spouse if:

  • the surviving spouse certifies that all debts and taxes have been paid, and
  • the surviving spouse provides a copy of the death certificate and proof of marriage to the deceased person.

A similar process is available for boats that aren't worth more than $5,000. (Md. Code Est. and Trusts § 5-608 (2024).)

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

For more on Maryland estate planning issues, see our section on Maryland Estate Planning.

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