Law Office of Rick Todd Blog

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Probate in Howard County (Part Three)

What does the typical probated estate look like? For one thing, it is probably a female’s estate. Men die with most of their assets being jointly owned by a wife, or possibly a child. At that point there is no reason for a probate because there are no assets that are separately owned. But, when their spouse passes away, families must deal with probate.

A good probate lawyer will be familiar with this scenario. Typically, the most significant asset in an elderly woman’s estate is her home, though with many elderly people dying in nursing homes, this asset is no longer available.

A complex probated estate is an estate with significant debt owed to multiple creditors, yet with assets for loved ones that make them worth opening. There may be other issues such as illegitimate children or former lovers who make claims. An attorney is more likely to see these, for obvious reasons, but the register of wills in Howard County won’t see them often.

In a place like Columbia, Maryland, with household incomes well over $100,000 a year, most people have their estates in order. They look for a probate attorney simply to take away the burden of filing what is necessary. The estate will still need their attention as the personal representative (executor) is required by law to do some of the work, but an attorney can help for a reasonable fee.

Probate is commonly thought of as a process that everyone goes through, but that is not really true. Estates that have no assets are not going to be opened even if a personal representative has been selected. There simply is not enough money to act as an incentive. Estates with no next of kin and without any assets to speak of might eventually get opened by the county, but they may get lost in the mix and forgotten. Banks might close accounts and accidentally take the money for themselves.

For the rest of us, there is still the long slog of probate. 

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