Maryland offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." This makes it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using the following probate shortcut -- saving time, money, and hassle.
Maryland has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You can use the simplified small estate process in Maryland if the property subject to probate in Maryland has a value of $50,000 or less, or if the surviving spouse is the only beneficiary, $100,000 or less. Value of the property is its fair market value minus any liens or encumbrances. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § § 5-601 and following.
The executor, surviving spouse, surviving adult child, grandchild, or certain other relatives can file the petition with the probate court. The petition must say that you have tried to locate and identify all of the deceased person's property and debts. You must include a list of the known property and its value, known creditors and amounts of each claim, and a summary of any legal proceedings involving the deceased person. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 5-602. After the court register accepts your petition, the executor can pay up to $15,000 in funeral expenses and $10,000 to the surviving spouse for his or her allowance, plus $5,000 per each unmarried minor child. The executor can also sell property to pay off expenses and allowances. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 3-201, Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 8-106 and Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 3-603.
If it looks like there will still be money left in the estate after paying the allowances and expenses, the court register publishes a notice once a week for three weeks in a newspaper in the county. Creditors have six months from the deceased person's death or one month from receiving notice of the executor's appointment, whichever is earlier, to file a claim against the estate. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 7-103.
The executor has to give a bond, a type of insurance to protect the assets of the estate, if the value of the estate is $10,000 or more after paying expenses and allowances unless the will waived this requirement. The executor must also file a statement listing all claims from creditors. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 5-604.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).