Legal Q & A

Legal Overview of Maryland law.  Our attorney answers common legal questions about deeds, trusts and other legal issues in Maryland. 


 Our Lawyer Answers to Common Deed Questions: 

These questions & answers, while hopefully helpful, are not intended as legal advice.  Your specific situation may affect how the law applies to you.

Attorney Answer:

A: Adding someone requires a new Deed, properly prepared, witnessed and filed. Under Maryland law only a licensed attorney or party to the transaction can prepare a deed. Removing someone can either be done by a new deed (generally requiring all owner's participation) or in some cases by court order forcing a sale. Note that transfer taxes may be due. You may wish to check out our Deed page for information on the process and costs.

Attorney Answer:

A: If somone dies with real estate (or other property) titled in their name, it must first go through the probate process. If there is a Will, the person named in the Will should petition the court to open an estate.  If the person died without a Will the law sets an order for family members (and then others) to be appointed.  If the property is not being liquidated (sold), the Personal Representative needs to deed the property out of the estate. After any timeframes for creditor claims pass and the Personal Representative files any requisite accountings, an attorney can prepare a deed of distribution.  
Our law firm regularly prepares deeds for inherited properties, you are welcome to give us a call or reach out through our website for more information. 

Attorney Answer:

A: If an estate has already been opened in a jurisdiction other than Maryland, there is a streamlined process to transfer Maryland property.  There is still paperwork to be filed with the Maryland Courts / Register of Wills and fees due to the Court, but the process itself is pretty straight-forward and not nearly as long as a typical estate.  Note that Maryland will impose a probate fee based on the value of the property which needs to be paid up-front before the property can transfer.   Our firm helps with this kind of transfer for a flat fee - you’re welcome to reach out for more information. 

Attorney Answer:

  A:  Generally, co-owners can own property as “tenants in common” OR as “joint tenants with survivorship rights”.  A special kind of ownership is available only to married couples as MD law allows a husband & wife to also own property as “tenants by the entirety” which gives both creditor protection and survivorship rights to the surviving spouse.   

Attorney Answer:

 A: Owning a home in the name of a trust avoids probate. This is a big “pro”. Having a home in a trust also allows for a successor to step in and manage the property if the original owner ever becomes unable to do so.  One “con” is that a trust must be created, which involves some level of time and expense.  
If there are minor children, a blended family (his & her kids) or other special needs, then a trust is often a wise part of basic estate planning.  In some situations, a more straight-forward and cost effective solution like a life estate deed might be a good alternative.  Our firm has experience with both trusts and trust alternatives and we’re happy to talk to you to see which might work best in your situation. 

Attorney Answer:

  A: No.  There is little difference between selling a home that is in or not in a trust. The Trustee will simply sign the settlement papers with “Trustee” after their name (the Trustee also usually verifies that the trust is still valid by providing the title company or settlement attorney with a trust certificate and/or copy of the trust instrument). 

Attorney Answer:

A: It is fairly common for siblings to own property together after the death of their parents. If one sibling wants to buy the other out (or simply transfer ownership) it will require a new deed. If there is a mortgage or money is changing hands there will be transfer tax due. Otherwise if a brother or sister is gifting their interest without getting anything of value the deed should be exempt from transfer taxes. Our law firm assists with sibling deeds, you are welcome to give us a call and/or reach out through our contact form for more information.

 Our Lawyer Answers to Common Estate/Trust/Probate Questions: 

These questions & answers, while hopefully helpful, are not intended as legal advice.  Your specific situation may affect how the law applies to you.

Attorney Answer:

 A: An estate is opened by filing a Petition in the county where the deceased person lived / was domiciled (usually their principal residence).  To open an estate, you’ll need the death certificate, the last Will (if any), nominal bond, information on the heirs and information on the property.  Depending on the value of the assets this might be a small or regular estate.  While you are not obligated to have an attorney represent you, it may be a good idea to sit down and talk with an attorney before starting the process.  

Attorney Answer:

A: When a trust is properly created and funded, property should pass through the Trust rather than through Will.  
That said, a Trust is almost always accompanied by a “pour over” Will.  A pour-over Will allows for any additional assets.  For example, if you purchased something and forgot to put it in the Trust, or if settlement monies were payable to your estate, the pour-over Will would divert those back to your Trust. 

Attorney Answer:

A: Usually the Trust itself is not recorded, while deeds transferring property into trust are recorded in Land Records. 
 When our office prepares Trust packages we scan and keep a digital copy, but the original trust instrument usually is held by the client in a safe place.  (Note that the Register of Wills has a vault to store Wills for safekeeping)

Attorney Answer:

  A:  Typically the shortest time frame is 6 months due to the period for creditor claims, but the “average” estate probably takes a year to settle.  Some complicated estates can take several years.  Some very small estates can be administratively closed shortly after opening.  You may wish to sit down with an attorney to discuss. 

Attorney Answer:

 A: If the trust is already created this is a simple matter of re-deeding the property (the deed goes through the recording process and a few government offices before winding up in Land Records).  You’re welcome to reach out to us for assistance in deeding the property. 

Attorney Answer:

  A:  These documents have different functions.  Generally BOTH are key components of basic planning.  The power of attorney (“POA”) gives someone (an Agent or Attorney-in-Fact) authority to manage financial affairs while you are LIVING. In contrast, the Will gives someone authority to manage affairs after your death.  These documents can never be effective at the same time (the POA is void the moment someone dies). 

Attorney Answer:

A: Maryland law requires you to notify the beneficiaries of the Trust within 60-90 days to let them know that you are the Trustee and that they are a beneficiary and have a right to get a copy of the Trust.  These notifications must be in writing.
Once you do that, you should follow the Trust instructions as far as paying bills and liquidating and/or disbursing assets.  Depending on the assets, you may need to file a Trust tax return and/or pay inheritance tax.  While many Trustees manage liquidation without attorney assistance a Trustee may want to seek legal advice at some point in the process.  

 Our Lawyer Answers to Common Estate/Trust/Probate Questions: 

A:  Corporations have a long-standing history as a way to conduct business and limit the financial exposure or liability of the owners.  At the most basic, a corporation has 3 sets of roles - Owners (or stockholders), Directors (who guide the company) and Officers (who make day-to-day decisions).  Stockholders elect Directors who in turn hire the Officers.  Most large businesses have a corporate structure. 
 LLCs are relative newcomers on the scene.  Like corporations, they shield owners (members) from personal liability. An LLC is not technically limited to small business but small businesses often select a LLC structure because of the relative simplicity.  If you’re starting a new business you may find it helpful to sit down with an attorney to talk through these options. 

A: A:  A business entity (LLC, Corporation, etc.) can only operate if its charter exists.  All entities in Maryland need to file an annual return with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to stay in good standing.
If this annual filing / fee is missed, the State will remove the good standing of the business.  Eventually the state will forfeit the business charter.  To get back in good standing, you’ll need to file the back personal property returns with the SDAT and pay a fee for each year.  If this has gone on long enough for the charter to be forfeited, then the business no longer exists and you will need to file Articles to “revive” or “reinstate” the business.  

A:  “S-Corp” status is a tax election that a business makes after its formation. Either a Corporation or an LLC can be set up like this.  If your business meets the IRS requirements (less than 100 members, only 1 class and no foreign non-resident owners) it can make this election by filing a form with the IRS at the start of its tax year. 

A:  Winding up a business can be simple or complicated, depending on the financial picture. If you have no outstanding creditors, you simply liquidate assets, disburse to the Members and file Articles of Cancellation (or Dissolution) with the State naming someone as a point of contact for the year after you formally close. 

A:  Yes.  It is quite common for a business to name a lawyer or law firm as its resident agent.  
A Resident Agent (sometimes people call this person a Registered Agent) is someone named in the public database to accept court papers or formal notices.  Anyone over the age of 18 located in Maryland can be designated to accept formal service of process.  Our law firm offers this service to our clients, but the law does not require you to select an attorney for this role.

General Questions

A:  1028 General’s Hwy Crownsville MD 21032.
 Our offices are centrally located in Anne Arundel County but we are licensed in and assist clients throughout the state of Maryland.  We primarily serve Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Harford, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in addition to select matters in Carolilne, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Worcester.

A:  Yes, we can meet virtually, in-person or over the phone for attorney consultations.  We’re happy to set up remote notarizations for deeds through a third party notary platform conforming to all of Maryland’s requirements for virtual / online notarizations. In fact, we routinely prepare, sign and record deeds online for clients in many Maryland counties.  
Note that for some types of matters, such as estate planning will require a second meeting to review, witness and notarize documents.  These are typically best done in person. 

A: We do not require a retainer for most deed, estate planning or business matters. Arden Law handles most types of legal cases for flat fees (example flat fees can be found here For most legal documents, we request a small deposit when we open the file and/or meet, with the balance not due until we draw up the documents and have them ready for signature.
We are happy to send a link to take care of payment online, or you can call us at 410-216-7000 to pay by e-check over the phone.

A: Every case Arden Law accepts is personally managed by an experienced attorney with a minimum of 10 years experience.  Our staff can also answer general questions and share updates.  In the average case we will touch base with you at least three times:  1) when we’ve opened your file, 2) when your documents are ready for review and notarization and 3) for deeds, when your deed has been recorded (or if it is rejected by the county for any reason).  You’re also welcome to reach out to us anytime by phone or email to check on the status.

A: Monday-Thursday 8:30am-5:30pm and Fridays 9am-1pm.   We schedule appointments weekdays, general Tuesdays - Thursdays between the hours of 10am and 4pm with limited evening hours available on select Wednesdays.  

Browse Additional Legal Questions answered by our Managing Attorney Cedulie Laumann on other sites:

Legal Questions Answered by Cedulie Laumann on Law Guru:

Legal Questions Answered on Justia


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