Common probate mistakes are bound to plague you if you have a loved one who has passed away without a Will or a Trust. When a family member passes away, a period of mourning and heightened emotions typically follows. For the Executor of the Estate, or Personal Representative as it’s referred to in Maryland, it can also be a time when complex legal and financial issues must be addressed during the probate process. If you are the Personal Representative of an estate, you want to avoid making costly mistakes. The best way to do that is to retain the services of an experienced probate attorney to assist you. In this article, we the Owings Mills probate attorneys at Gershberg & Associates, LLC explain some common probate mistakes and therefore, why it is important to consult with an experienced Probate Attorney.
Common Probate Mistakes
- Failing to consult with a probate attorney: Although you may be able to handle administering the estate on your own, you should at least consult with a probate attorney if you want to avoid making serious mistakes.
- Using formal probate when a small alternative is available: Most states, including Maryland, offer some type of alternative to formal probate for small (under $50,000.00), uncomplicated estates. Always check to see if such an alternative is available to save time and money.
- Mishandling estate assets: As the Personal Representative of an estate, one of the first things you need to do is to secure all assets as soon as possible. This may be as simple as closing a financial account or as complex as traveling to out of state property to secure it and arrange for upkeep
- Improperly categorizing assets: Because some assets bypass probate, it is important to categorize estate assets as probate or non-probate assets before moving forward. Common examples of non-probate assets include:
- Trust assets
- Proceeds of a life insurance policy
- Certain types of jointly help property
- Funds held in certain types of retirement accounts
- Failing to Notify Creditors: All potential creditors of the estate must receive notice of the probate of the estate. Known creditors can be notified personally; however, unknown creditors must receive notice via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors then have a statutory amount of time within which to file a claim.
- Failure to Inform Beneficiaries: Failure to keep beneficiaries informed during the process may increase the likelihood of costly and time-consuming litigation.
- Distributing assets too soon: The Personal Representative has the authority to approve and pay creditor claims, pay fees/costs associated with probate, and distribute assets to beneficiaries; however, assets distributed for any of these reasons must follow a statutorily mandated order of priority and may not be distributed until a specific time and only after Court approval.
- Incorrectly calculating (or not paying) the estate’s federal gift and estate tax obligation: Some estates are potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. The State of Maryland also imposes an inheritance and estate tax. These are priority claims and must be correctly calculated and paid before most other claims and before assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
- Forgetting to submit a closing inventory: Probate courts require the Personal Representative to file a closing inventory at the end of the probate process, which can be complicated and must be filed in a timely fashion.
Contact Our Owings Mills Probate Attorney
For more information, or if you have additional questions or concerns about how to avoid making mistakes during the probate of an estate, contact experienced Owings Mills probate attorney, Richard Gershberg and his team at Gershberg & Associates, LLC by calling 410-654-3850 to schedule an appointment.
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