Administering Estates in Maryland

An Estate is Administered after someone dies.  If you're instead looking to create an estate plan, see Wills/Trusts

An estate is "opened" in Maryland after someone dies. The "PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE" is responsible for handling all the paperwork and finances and administrative decisions. 

  • What does a Personal Representative do?
  • How do I open an estate for someone who has died? 
  • Do we need to go through probate? 
  • How much does probate cost?  

What does a Personal Representative do?  

Maryland law requires that the Personal Representative (or "PR") take charge of the decedent's property, notify interested persons, appraise estate property, give creditor notice, file accountings with the Court or Register of Wills, file tax returns and so forth.  Some states call this roll an "Executor" or "Administrator." 

In some cases a PR can do a streamlined estate (modified administration).   If there are few assets, few heirs and no complications some of the burden of normal probate may be lessened.  "Probate" can be a dreaded process but Maryland has relatively modest probate taxes and the availability of streamlined administration helps in some cases.  

Faced with managing a loved one's estate?  Arden Law Firm, LLC can offer legal assistance to guide you through the process whether you want to manage yourself or whether you are seeking legal representation for estates of almost any size. 

The Personal Representative is responsible for handling all the paperwork, all the assets and administrative decisions.  (some other states call this person an "Executor" of the Will).   

How do I open an estate for someone who has died?

An estate is "opened" in Maryland after someone dies by going to the county where that person lived (technically the place of "domicile," this usually is the place they last lived).  The process starts by gathering the death certificate and Will and filing a Petition.  If no Will exists, the laws of intestate succession apply and dictate how estate property gets divided.  

There are several different variations of probate (such as Administrative or Judicial).  The Personal Representative must perform a variety of administrative tasks after the Petition, including getting bond, publishing notice in the paper, appraising and inventorying assets, filing accountings, marketing property and disbursing or selling assets, negotiating and paying claims and so forth.  The estate may need to get its own tax identification number, open up its own bank accounts and pay its own taxes, as well as filing the decedent's income tax return.  If the estate is represented by an attorney the attorney can help with most or all of these tasks.   A Personal Representative may also need to physically coordinate the clearing / cleaning / sale of estate property.

Do we need to go through probate? 

If someone dies with assets titled in their name alone, then generally YES, probate is necessary. 

If someone dies with assets titled in their name alone, then generally YES, probate is necessary.   Even if everything goes to a spouse or other loved one by Will and no creditors have rights to the property, probate is necessary to actually transfer the various assets (like a house, car, money in the bank, etc.)

If you're in the planning stages for your own estate, there are a few cost effective tools for avoiding or minimizing probate.  Simply titling assets differently (without giving up rights to them) could eliminate the whole probate process, saving both time and cost.  (A word of caution - titling haphazardly can actually increase costs so understand what you're doing before changing the title to any asset).  Obviously at some point it is too late to plan.  If you find yourself starting the probate process for a family member or loved one, you may find legal assistance helpful.  If the estate is in Maryland, you're welcome to call Arden Law Firm for a no-cost initial 10 minute phone call.  

If proper planning took place ahead of time and there are no assets in the deceased person's name, it may be possible to side-step the whole probate process entirely.  


  • REGULAR ESTATE - A regular estate goes through the customary probate process without any legal "shortcuts"  A regular estate may be subject to "judicial probate" or "administrative probate." 
  • SMALL ESTATE  - A small estate requires fewer filings and may not need an estate lawyer.  
  • MODIFIED ADMINISTRATION - In certain circumstances,  if all the heirs agree and the estate doesn't need a lot of time to wrap things up, it may qualify for MODIFIED ADMINISTRATION.  This streamlined process involves less paperwork and less court involvement. 


Some estate costs are set by third parties - like bond premiums or newspaper publications.  The law sets probate tax based on the value of all the estate assets (not to be confused with inheritence tax or estate & gift tax, probate tax is relatively modest).  Maryland law sets a fee structure for Personal Representative Commissions based on the value of the estate. This is typically capped at 3.6% of the estate (a different % applies to the first $20,000 managed). 

In most cases (except for highly complex cases or cases involving estate litigation), Arden Law Firm, LLC can assist the Personal Representative in managing the estate for less than the statutory commission amount.   Contact the firm for a review of your particular estate and a quote.  

In every case, a written fee agreement is reached BEFORE the firm starts working on the administration (and again, this is often for less than the statutory amount).   Did you know?  All attorney fees paid to the estate attorney must also be approved by either the heirs/interested persons or the court.  

© ArdenLawFirm 2014-2018  Managing Attorney Cedulie Laumann, Esq.