If the person who passes away has no Trust in place, or their Trust was not properly "funded" then their assets must be distributed with the approval of the Maryland Orphans Court system. Each county has their own Orphans Court, for example the Orphans Court in Baltimore County is located in Towson, Maryland. This page will not be able to explain everything, but should give you an orientation and a clear sequence of requirements when Probating an Estate in Maryland. Note that this is not advice, but only educational material. We highly recommend the hiring of an Estates and Trusts Attorney when Administering or Probating an Estate in Maryland. There may be variances in the rules for each county, but these should be applicable to most counties generally.
Before taking any other action, attempt to locate the most recent original copies of the Decedent's (person who passed away) Estate Planning Documents. These may be in their Home, in a Safe Deposit Box at a Bank (not a good idea), held by their Estate Planning Attorney in a Safe, or filed with the Register of Wills in any given county in the State of Maryland. Often times a copy of Estate Planning Documents are found on a shelf if the Decedent's home with information about where the Original Documents are located and how to access them.
Once these documents are found, determine if you are named in a Document such as a Last Will and Testament or a Pour-Over Will as the Personal Representative. If someone else is named, these documents must be then given to that individual. However if you are named as a Personal Representative and all other preceding named Personal Representatives have predeceased you, then you are effectively named the Personal Representative.
If no Estate Planning Documents are found, then you need to look to the Maryland Intestate Rules for the Order of Rights of Letters found here: MD Est & Trusts Code § 5-104 (2018)
These generally give priority to the Spouse and Children, then to any Grandchildren, Parents, Siblings, and so on. If you do not know of any other individuals in a higher priority tier for the nomination of Personal Representative then you are eligible to Petition for Appointment.
At this point, you would then decide whether you want to hire an Attorney from an Estate Planning firm such as Stouffer Legal or attempt to manage the Estate on your own.
Once you have searched for the Last Will and produced a reason to believe that you have the authority to be appointed Personal Representative of the Estate, you will then prepare a Petition for Probate of an Estate.
The Register of Wills provides forms to help submit the Petition for Probating an Estate, but there are different forms and requirements based on the size and conditions of the Estate.
An Estate may be a Will of No Estate, a Small Estate, or a Regular Estate depending on the A
If there are no known Assets titled in the name of Decedent to be transferred without a Trust or Beneficiary Designation to a living individual or entity, then the Estate is of no value and you have either a Pour-Over Will, Holographic Will, Napkin Will, or Last Will and Testament, then you must file a Petition for a Will of No Estate.
This can be submitted by completing the following form along with an Original Death Certificate:
A Small Estate is easier to Probate as it has less filing requirements of the Personal Representative. To determine if an Estate is "Small", we look to the following statute:
Section 5-601 basically states that if the total Fair Market Value of all Assets titled in the name of the Decedent at time of death, less any secured debt is less than $50,000 this is considered a Small Estate. However if all Assets are to be left to the surviving spouse (depending on the Will or Intestacy) then the total value less than $100,000 is considered to be a Small Estate.
To submit a Petition for a Small Estate, you will complete the form RW1103, include an original Death Certificate, and the last known Original Will and any subsequent Codicils (amendments).
Although we will later review how to complete a Petition for Administration, the Small Estate in particular has a required "Schedule B" which is the sole inventory filed for this estate. You will need to list all assets in the estate with documentation of how you determined the value. More details on how to provide these details are covered in Step 4.
In the event that you believe there are assets in the Estate but you need to first be appointed as the Personal Representative to have the authority required to determine asset values, you can simple state in the Schedule B of this form "Requesting 30 days to discover assets related to this Estate" and later file an amended Schedule B after you are appointed Personal Representative, get the Letters of Administration, and substantiate the inventory.
If there is either over $50,000 in the Estate or if all assets left to a surviving spouse exceed $100,000 then this is considered to be a Regular Estate. You can also file a Regular Estate if you believe there is a good chance that additional assets will be added to the Estate later in the Administration like a settlement. This will help to avoid the filing of a Petition to Convert a Small Estate into a Regular Estate at a later date.
To submit a Petition for a Regular Estate, you will complete the form RW1112, include an original Death Certificate, and the last known Original Will and any subsequent Codicils (amendments).
Unlike the Schedule B inventory of a Small Estate, you will only list a very loose estimate value in Schedule A known as form RW1136 to justify your assessment of the size of this Estate. This is broken in the total estimated value of any Real Property or Personal Property and does not need to reconcile with any subsequent accounting filed.
This estimation at this point will generally not require any further substantiation submitted to justify this estimate.
In addition to a Petition, the Death Certificate, and the Last Will you may also want to file the additional documents at this time:
If you live out of state, you will need to appoint a Resident Agent in Maryland.
A Bond (Insurance Policy) submitted with Form RW1115 is required of the Personal Representative unless it's either waived in the Last Will, or if Form RW1117 is completed to Waive the requirement of being Bonded.
If you waive the bond, you as Personal Representative are personally liable for the value of the Estate and all distributions made from it.
You can get a Bond from Insurance Agencies such as Lentz Insuance Agent in Timmonium, Maryland:
In addition to the normal Bond, there is an additional Bond that cannot be waived to insure that the Probate Fee will be paid to the Register of Wills and any other creditors.
You can get a Nominal Bond from Insurance Agencies such as Lentz Insuance Agent in Timmonium, Maryland:
If there are multiple people who have the claim for appointment of Personal Representative,
they may choose to complete a Consent to appoint you as the Personal Representative using Form RW1118.
This is a list of all named Legatees (name to receive a distribution in the Will or by Intestate) including any potential heirs that would be applicable if the Will was not upheld. For example, if the decedent left everything to their spouse you would still list the children as well as Heirs. In subsequent filings you will not need to continue distributing copies of notice to these individuals.
This should be sent with a copy of the Petition Packet as submitted to each person listed on the Form RW1104 List of Interested Persons.
Once the Notice from Form RW1110 has been sent, this Certificate of Service must be signed by the Personal Representative and delivered with the Petition to Probate an Estate certifying the method with which these Notices where sent.
With either of these forms, you will reach out to a local publication in the county where you are Administering the Estate to submit a Notice of Appointment to Creditors and Unknown Heirs in case any potential heirs were missed or unknown. A copy of this publication should later be submitted as a line item to the Register of Wills for this Estate.
In Baltimore County, the Register requests that this notice be published 3 times in the Daily Record.
For an example of these listings see the Daily Record Public Notice site here:
Once you've completed all the above forms, combine them into a paper clipped packet starting with the Petition itself. Remember that the Will and Death Certificate should be originals.
If you only have a copy of the Will, then you will also need to include a Petition to accept a copy of the Will using the following form:
Try to arrive at the Registers Office either as soon as they open or before 11am, or between 2pm and 4pm for the least busy time.
Tell the receptionist at the front desk that you would like to Open an Estate and sign in to be called. Most Register of Wills offices are amazingly friendly and helpful, so don't be scared to ask questions. Once your Estate is opened, you will be assigned an Auditor so you can reach out to them about additional questions later.
You will then be seated at a desk where someone will review your filing, suggest corrections, require additional information, or will file your Petition. We ask for a copy of the Petition to be date stamped for future evidence of the date the petition was submitted.
If this Petition is Accepted, there is a possibility that you could receive your Letters of Administration and be appointed Personal Representative. If not, you will need to wait for a Court Order approving the petition and can then return for your Letters of Administration. I would suggest requesting a number of these Letters (about 10) for instances where institutions will only accept original stamped letters.
For a complete list of forms, see the Maryland Register of Wills website here:
If you have a need to pay expenses of the estate such as funeral expenses or other expenses that are appropriate for the estate and need to be expediently paid, see Step 5 on how to open an Estate Checking Account. However, it is recommended to complete the inventory and assess inheritance taxes first if at all possible.
Now that you have been appointed Personal Representative and have received the Letters of Administration, you will want to request 2 items of each institution. The first is the value of the asset on the Decedent's date of death, and the most recent statement of the account.
A good starting place is to search the Decedent's residence to look for any paperwork in the home including an Estate Planning Binder. While gathering these documents, determine who was their Accountant, Financial Advisor, and Estate Planning Attorney.
The Attorney may have records of assets and should be a good source of information regarding this process. The Accountant can provide the last tax filing, request one from the IRS, and help to file either the final accounting of the decedent or to file taxes for the estate at a later date if applicable.
Next, search the Maryland Land Records website for any deeds in the name of the decedent to find related Real Property.
Lastly, check for any unclaimed property at the Maryland Escheatment Claims website which is searchable by name here:
Now review each document gathered above and organize them into the following categories:
Real Estate or Real Property
Cash Assets (Bank Accounts, CDs, Cash)
Business Interests or Business Ownership
Investments (Stocks, Mutual Funds, Brokerage Accounts)
Life Insurance Policies
Tangible Personal Property
Now that these have been organized into asset types, create a spreadsheet that lists the Asset Name, Asset Type, it's value as of the Date of Death, and it's most recent estimated value, and the date of the most recent estimated value.
When you begin to review documents from each of these categories, update the spreadsheet with the most recent estimate amount and date of statement, as well as the value as of the date of death if available.
The Date of Death Value should be the most recent tax assessment value found in the Maryland Department of Taxation search here:
You will need a Bank Statement that covers the date of death and you will see the last listed Running Balance on the bank statement for the end of the day for the Date of Death. If you do not have this statement, you will need to visit a local branch or submit a written request along with the Death Certificate and Letters of Administration for a copy of this statement.
Documentation of Business Interest will either come in the form of Articles of Incorporation, however the valuation of the business should be conducted by an Accountant. It would be ideal to reach out to the Accountant of the decedent first for assistance or a recommendation.
These will either be original issued bonds, or a receipt of digital bonds held at the US Treasury.
If you are unsure, you can submit a request to discover unclaimed Bonds here:
To calculate the date of death value, visit the following estimation calculator:
You will need to do this for every individual bond and summarize them on your spreadsheet.
If you cannot determine a clear date of death for Mutual Funds or Brokerage Accounts from the statements, reach out to the Financial Advisor or Financial Institution for a Death of Death Value Statement and submit the Death Certificate and Letters of Administration along with your request.
For individual stocks, you will need to take the average of the markets low and high values for that stock on the date of death and multiply it by the number of shares.
You can use: BigCharts by MarketWatch's Historical Quote Calculator found hereto find the high and low value for the date of death.
A life insurance policy document should list a payout or coverage value. If the policy lists an individual as the beneficiary, it is not a Probate Asset and does not need to be included in the inventory. If the beneficiary designation is either deficient or only left to a predeceased individual, then the payout value should be listed in the Inventory.
If you cannot determine a clear date of death for Retirement Accounts from the statements, reach out to the Financial Advisor or Financial Institution for a Death of Death Value Statement and submit the Death Certificate and Letters of Administration along with your request.
The Maryland Probate Court will generally accept a Kelly Blue Book estimation of the car.
When in doubt you can always contact a professional appraiser for a more accurate value.
For all household items, you should hire a professional appraiser to estimate the total value for all other personal property.
Now that you have Date of Death values for all Probate Assets in the Estate, you can now use that information to complete the following forms for a Regular Estate (remember this isn't needed in a Small Estate):
Keep in mind, you will need a separate supporting schedule for each category of assets as listed on the Inventory Summary.
Once this has been completed, attach to this filing substantiation of how you determined these values. For example, print the SDAT Listing showing the house value, or the Appraisal Summary for Personal Tangible Property, the Kelly Blue Book page showing the car value, and so on.
This will be submitted in person to the Register of Wills similarly to how the Petition was delivered.
Remember that per MD Est & Trusts Code § 7-201 (2018)
you MUST submit this Inventory within 3 months of being appointed Personal Representative.
Now that you know who the assets go to and what the estate is comprised of, follow the instructions found on and complete for submission:
Inheritance Taxes generally are 10% for anybody receiving an inheritance that is not the spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, child, or grandchild. These are also referred to as Non-Lineal Heirs and you will need to report if they are on any joint account (taxed on 1/2 the value), if they have been given anything in the past 2 years, or if they were the POD (Payable on Death) or TOD (Transfer on Death) beneficiary on any accounts.
More information about the payment of these taxes can be found here:
Also note that if the Estate is Directed to Pay Inheritances Taxes out of the Estate per instructions found in the Last Will, then the taxable rate will be 11.1111..% since that payment will also be taxes recursively.
At this point you've filed the Petition to Open the Estate, the List of Interested Persons, the Estate Inventory, and the Information Report. Good Job, you're doing great!!
Now you will begin preparation of the estate for management and distribution.
To open the Estate Checking Account, you will first need a new EIN (Tax ID) from the IRS. We recommend that this filing be done by an Accountant, but you can get this by submitting the following form to the IRS:
You will receive a letter from the IRS which includes your EIN. Next go to a bank of your choice with the Death Certificate, EIN Letter from the IRS, and the Letters of Administration from the Register of Wills.
Ask them to open an Estate Checking Account.
You will want to identify any specific distributions that are to be make in-kind (as they are) or any assets that the residuary beneficiaries may want in-kind such as an IRA rollover into their name to maximize the stretch-out period and minimize taxes. For any of those assets, reach out to the managing institution to place them into the name of the Estate for the time being and put them aside for now.
Take the remainder of the assets and attempt to liquidate them all (if safe and the Accountant confirms there is no unwanted tax consequence) into the Estate Checking Account.
Any other checks or payments received by the Estate like a refund for a cable bill should be deposited into this Estate Checking Accounts. All expenses of the estate should be paid from this account and receipts should be kept for later Fiduciary Accounting of the Estate.
Now that all in-kind distributions are set aside, all other accounts have be consolidated into the Estate Checking Account, you will now produce a Draft Fiduciary Accounting. This may be the most difficult step in the Probate Process for someone unfamiliar with this type of work. Our suggestion would be to reach out to your Accountant for assistance with this, but if you would like to learn more we've outlined the process here for you.
You as Personal Representative are the steward of funds of behalf of the decedent and have a Fiduciary Responsibility to handle the assets as they are carried forward into a final distribution. For this reason, our Maryland Legislatures have codified in law the right for a beneficiary to demand a full accounting of the Estate from the Personal Representative and require one to be submitted to the Probate Court for review by their Auditor and approved by the Orphans Court Judge in the county it was filed. According to
The Accounting is due within 9 months of being appointed Personal Representative, and if not a final accounting then every 6 months thereafter. An accounting of the Estate is also required at the close of the Estate or when stepping down as Personal Representative.
This Accounting starts with a snapshot of all fair market values as of the Decedent's date of death and covers the period of time until final distributions are made. This is why the first Schedule of Accounting starts with the Inventory (Date of Death Values), then shows any Misc. Receipts, then Gains or Losses of Assets in the Estate, then Income to the Estate, followed by any Expenses or Early Distributions, and finally the calculation of all Final Distributions. If this is not a final accounting, then you will close the accounting with an updated Inventory showing all assets still remaining in the Estate, and that will then become the starting Inventory of your subsequent Accounting.
Although the statute doesn't demand a specific structure of accounting, the State of Maryland is kind enough give a sample accounting of their preferred format which you can see here:
As you can see from the Sample Accounting provided by the Register of Wills, the accounting is broken into separate schedules similar to the flow of accounting as described above. We will not review each Schedule and explain what is to be done for each.
The Summary page is used to summarize whether the Estate is “balanced”. Balanced means that what came into the Estate (Schedules 1, 2, 3, and 4) are always equal to what goes out of the Estate (Schedules 5, 6, and 7). This is very important and required for submitting an accounting to the Register. NEVER FORCE the balance number to zero, instead use this summary to identify where the accounting error occurred. This represents the first two corners of the "reconciliation triangle". The “balance” figure is calculated by subtracting the TOTAL RECEIPTS intersection by the TOTAL DISBURSEMENTS intersection.
Schedule 1 – Beginning Balance
The beginning balance page (Schedule 1) is where we begin accounting for an Estate or any other Fiduciary Accounting such as being a Trustee of a Trust,or a Power of Attorney. Fiduciary Accounting is generally for the benefit of another and always consists of a Begin and End Date. In Medicaid, this is 5 years prior to the Application Submission, in Estate Administration this is the Date of Death to the Date of Final Distribution, and for Trust Accounting it is the date the Trust was formed, funded, or triggered by a life event until the Final Distribution.
The figured entered into the Schedule 1 MUST match exactly to the Filed and Approved Estate Inventory of Date of Death values. If this is not the First Accounting, then the Schedule 1 MUST match exactly to the Schedule 7– Not Final from the prior Approved Accounting. Note: The Schedule 7 is simply an intermediate inventory if the first accounting is Not Final.
Schedule 2 – Miscellaneous Principal Receipts
Any value owed to the Decedent during life, but then received after death is considered to be a Receipt of Principal. This could be a final paycheck, reimbursement for a security deposit, over payment to a Medical Insurance plan, or a check found in their house and dated prior to death.
These are to be listed, dated, and totaled on the Schedule 2 as increases to the total value of the filed Inventory.
Schedule 3 – Gain & Loss
When an Estate is in custody of an item or stock, its value may increase and decrease during the administration process. This is accounted for on the Schedule 3 by showing the Inventory Value, and offsetting that from it’s current, distributed, or liquidated value. A Kelly Blue Book may value a car for $5,000.00 but we could only sell it for $4,500.00 and took a loss of $500.00. Since the Inventory listed it as $5,000.00 we have to show the $500.00 shortfall from the low sale of the vehicle. This is generally done by dating the sale or liquidation transaction, describing what we did, and listing the received value. Below that is the Inventory Value originally listed, and one more line below is the subtotal of the difference and what happened to the funds.
Schedule 4 – Income
Any money made by the Estate after the Date of Death is considered income. This is most typically interest from a checking account, rent payments, or dividends from an investment. This would also more broadly include any checks that were made payable on a date after the Decedent's Date of Death.
Schedule 5 – Disbursements
Any expenses from administering the Estate are listed here.Each of the expenses should generally correlate to a line on your Estate Checking Account Register. These expenses should include any reimbursements to the Personal Representative or Potential Distributees (do not account for reimbursements on Schedule 6).
In addition, the payment of Inheritance Taxes (depending on the tax clause in the Will), the Probate Fee to the Register of Wills, and any Attorney’s Fees are also included on this schedule.
Schedule 6 – Distributions
Once all other schedules are completed, we are ready to calculate the final distribution. This will be done based on the Design Form from the assigned Attorney. There are some examples in the spreadsheet of how to show the distributions, but this isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of situation. The top of the schedule shows the Residual Balance available for distribution which is Schedules 1 through 4 added together, minus Expenses in Schedule 5. If the distributee is exempt from Inheritance Tax, that should be noted under their name. Also, the section of the Will that substantiates their interest as stated should be referenced after their name. All subtotals should be calculated on this Schedule as well.
This final distribution should bring the balance of the Estate on the “Summary” page to Zero.
We recommend that you add an additional page to Schedule 6 as a Calculation of Final Distribution which does not need to be submitted with the accounting, but is used for the reviewing final checks to be written. This is where you show the current balance of the Estate Checking account, less all pending reimbursements and distributions bringing the Estate Checking account down to Zero as well. These payments or transfers should only be made after this accounting is filed with the register, approved with a court order, and after you wait 23 days after the order date. This allows others a chance to challenge your accounting.
Schedule 7 – Not Final
If this is NOT the Final Accounting, you will need to use Schedule 7 to produce an updated Inventory of all assets that are still in the Estate. For instance, if you have an order allowing an early distribution and it has been received, that should be reduced from the relevant schedule. Also, if you have any gains, losses, or expenses, this inventory should reflect the value as of the accounting end date in the “Intake” tab including the checking account as a cash asset and submitted as the new Inventory. This schedule should look very much like the initial Filed Inventory. Don’t forget to indicate on the headings of this accounting that it is a "Nth and Not Final" opposed to a "First and Final Account".
You will then create a new Accounting and update the “Schedule 1 – Inventory” page to reflect this Schedule 7 and also update the Summary Page to indicate it is now a “Second” and “Final” or whichever number or state you are on.
In addition to this accounting, there are additional documents that must be submitted with your Accounting.
The Verification of Account is required and must be signed by the Personal Representative and the Attorney to affirm accuracy and to list all interested persons who have received a mailed copy of this Filed Accounting. Note: Be sure to get an auditor to pre-approve the accounting before preparing the mailings.
Petition and Order for Funeral Expenses is filed to either approve early distributions from the Estate for funeral expenses or to state the final amount of funeral expenses paid. There is an allowed amount of funeral expenses to be deducted from the estate prior to distribution without tax penalty if applicable.
When submitting an Accounting, the first 2 things the register or auditor will look for is that the Bond for the Personal Representative was paid and accounted for on the Expenses, and that the Publication Notice went out, was paid and accounted for the on the Expenses (Schedule 5) as well. Print out each of these invoices and a copy of the check paying these expenses if available.
The only other items to be substantiated are for the purposes of clarifying a confusing or complex situation. For example to show the evidence behind any gains / losses in stock value and show how the calculation was performed, but is not always required.
The auditor may ask you to provide additional information at any time, so you should review your accounting with an auditor at the Register of Wills first before this is submitted and sent out to interested persons.
In terms of resolving liabilities and debts of the Estate, there are guidelines as to the lawful priority of these payments.
Generally, an expense of the estate would be costs related to the managing and closing of an Estate. This might be a bond payment, hiring an Accountant, hiring an Appraiser, paying a Realtor, expenses related to the sale of a house, etc.
A claim against the estate would be a debt owed by the decedent such as an unpaid bill or credit card. These debts should be presented to the estate by a submitting a
Section 8-103 above generally states that these claims must be submitted within 6 months of the Date of Death. If you disagree with the claim and require additional substantiation as to the validity, there is a counter filing that you can submit
where you then require the Claimant to petition the court and have the claim reviewed by the Orphans Court Judge.
Once all claims have been settled, the creditor period has concluded, the final accounting has been approved with a Court Order, and 23 days have passed since the date of that approval, you may then make a final distribution.
If this is in-kind it may come in the form of having a brokerage re-title an account from the Estate to the name of the Beneficiary or Legatee. If this is real-property, you will need to have a title company or attorney draft a deed and file it with land records to convey the property to the beneficiary. If this is cash, then you will write out a check to the beneficiary or into a Trust Account established for their benefit and delivered to the Trustee.
During the course of this process, you should check with an Accountant to be sure that the remainder tax year of the decedent's life was properly filed with the IRS and State of Maryland.
If there was any income to the Estate for the tax year elected with then you may need to file a Tax Return for the Estate.
It is also good to review the proposed distribution pattern of your final accounting with an Accountant prior to submission to check for any unexpected tax consequences of the beneficiaries.
1. Go to the Bank First without the Approval of the Register of Wills
2. Not checking for pre-paid funeral expenses
3. Making Early Distributions before the Final Accounting is approved or without a specific order from the Court (protects you from any issues later raised if an Exemption is Filed against your Final Accounting)
4. Not Keeping Records of Expenses that need to be detailed in the required Estate Accounting
5. Paying Creditors that may not have a right to the claim based on the priory of expenses and distributions or when a formal claim hasn't been submitted; for more information please see:
6. Liquidating IRAs
7. Forgetting to check for a Safe Deposit Box
8. Missing Court Deadlines (the Sheriff can serve you a Notice of Failure to Appear)
9. Missing Assets by not diligently searching for all items or checking past tax filings
10. Forgetting to Check Digital Assets not only for assets of value, but also for social media accounts and family photographs of sentimental value