FAQs Archive - Ritter Elder Law & Estate Planning

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What is a Life Estate Deed Without Powers?

    In Maryland, a life estate deed is a type of legal agreement that allows a person (known as the life tenant) to own and use a property during their lifetime, while also designating one or more other individuals (known as remaindermen) to receive ownership of the property upon the life tenant’s death.

    Under a life estate deed, the life tenant retains the right to use and occupy the property for the rest of their life, but they cannot sell or transfer ownership of the property without the consent of the remaindermen. Once the life tenant passes away, the remaindermen automatically become the owners of the property, without the need for probate.

    Life estate deeds can be used for various purposes, such as to transfer ownership of property to family members while also allowing the original owner to retain use of the property during their lifetime. They can also be used to avoid the costs and delays of probate, as ownership of the property passes directly to the remaindermen upon the life tenant’s death. These types of deeds may also be used in Medicaid planning and asset protection planning.

    To create a life estate deed in Maryland, the property owner must execute and record a deed that designates themselves as the life tenant and one or more individuals or entities as the remaindermen. It’s important to note that once a life estate deed is created, it can be difficult to change or undo, so it’s important to consult with a qualified attorney before proceeding with this type of legal agreement.

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  • What is Probate?

    Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets and property are distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries under the supervision of a court. In Maryland, probate is a court-supervised process that ensures that the deceased person’s assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes or Maryland law, if there is no valid will.

    During probate, the court oversees the administration of the deceased person’s estate, including the identification and valuation of assets, the payment of outstanding debts and taxes, and the distribution of property to heirs or beneficiaries. The process can be complex and time-consuming, and it can involve multiple court appearances and legal fees.

    In Maryland, the probate process begins by filing a petition for administration with the Register of Wills in the county where the deceased person lived. The petition should include information about the deceased person’s assets, property, debts, and potential heirs or beneficiaries. The court will then appoint an executor or personal representative to oversee the probate process and ensure that the deceased person’s wishes or Maryland law is followed.

    It is important to note that not all assets are subject to probate, and some may pass directly to beneficiaries or heirs outside of the probate process. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the Maryland probate process and the options available for estate planning and asset distribution.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • What is a Legatee?

    In Maryland, a legatee is a person or entity named in a will to receive a specific gift or bequest from the deceased person’s estate. Unlike an heir, who is entitled to a share of the estate when the deceased person dies without a valid will, a legatee only receives the specific property or asset that was bequeathed to them in the deceased person’s will.

    For example, if a deceased person’s will specifies that their antique furniture collection should be given to their friend John, then John is considered a legatee and is entitled to receive the antique furniture collection, while the rest of the estate will be distributed according to the terms of the will or Maryland intestacy laws.

    It is important to note that the rules governing inheritance, wills, and trusts in Maryland can be complex, and they may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the deceased person’s estate. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the laws and rules related to inheritance and estate planning in Maryland.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • What is an Heir?

    In Maryland, an heir is a person who is entitled to receive property or assets from the estate of a deceased person when the deceased dies without a valid will. Maryland’s intestacy laws govern how the deceased person’s estate is distributed when there is no will, and they determine who is considered an heir and what share of the estate each heir is entitled to receive.

    Under Maryland law, the deceased person’s surviving spouse and children are typically the first in line to inherit the estate when there is no will. If the deceased person has no surviving spouse or children, their parents, siblings, or more distant relatives may be considered heirs and may be entitled to a share of the estate.

    It is important to note that the rules governing intestacy and inheritance can be complex, and they may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the deceased person’s estate. In addition, the existence of a will, trust, or other estate planning documents can also affect who is considered an heir and what share of the estate they are entitled to receive. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the laws and rules related to inheritance and estate planning in Maryland.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning webpage.

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  • What does it Mean to Die Intestate?

    Dying intestate in Maryland means that a person has died without a valid will or other estate planning documents. When a person dies intestate, Maryland’s intestacy laws govern how their assets and property are distributed.

    Under Maryland intestacy law, if a person dies without a will, their assets and property will be distributed to their heirs according to a specific order of priority. The deceased person’s surviving spouse and children are typically the first in line to inherit the estate, with the spouse receiving a portion of the estate and the children receiving the remaining balance. If the deceased person has no surviving spouse or children, their parents, siblings, or more distant relatives may be considered heirs and may be entitled to a share of the estate.

    It is important to note that dying intestate can be a complicated and time-consuming process, and it can result in the distribution of the deceased person’s assets and property in a manner that does not reflect their wishes. To avoid this, it is recommended to create a valid will or other estate planning documents to ensure that your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes. A qualified attorney can provide guidance and assistance with creating a will or other estate planning documents in Maryland.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • What is a Regular Estate in Maryland?

    In Maryland, a “regular estate” is an estate that does not qualify as a small estate and is subject to the standard probate process. This means that the estate must be opened with the Register of Wills, and the personal representative (executor) must follow the procedures and requirements set forth in Maryland law. The estate value thresholds are as follows: $50,000 or greater constitutes a regular estate unless the surviving spouse is the sole legatee, then the “regular estate” filing threshold is $100,000.

    The probate process for a regular estate in Maryland involves several steps, including filing a Petition for Probate and Administration, inventorying and appraising the assets of the estate, paying off any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries.

    The personal representative is responsible for managing the estate during the probate process, which may include dealing with creditors, filing tax returns, and distributing assets. The personal representative must also comply with the deadlines and requirements set forth by Maryland law, and must seek court approval for certain actions, such as selling real estate or making significant changes to the distribution of assets.

    It is important to note that the probate process can be complex and time-consuming, and it can involve multiple court appearances and legal fees. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the Maryland probate process and the options available for estate planning and asset distribution.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • Does Maryland have an Inheritance Tax?

    Maryland’s collateral inheritance tax is a tax on the transfer of property or assets from a deceased person’s estate to non-lineal heirs or beneficiaries, such as cousins, nieces, nephews, or unrelated individuals. Maryland does not have an inheritance tax on direct lineal descendants (i.e., grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings). Maryland does have a collateral inheritance tax on non-lineal descendants.

    The collateral inheritance tax rates in Maryland vary depending on the value of the property or assets received which is usually assessed around 10% – 11.1111% depending on the specific circumstances of the matter. The tax is calculated based on the fair market value of the property at the time of the deceased person’s death, and is paid by the recipient of the property or assets.

    It is important to note that there are certain exemptions and deductions that may apply to the collateral inheritance tax in Maryland, such as exemptions for property transferred to charitable organizations, or deductions for debts and expenses related to the transfer of the property.

    It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney or tax professional to understand the Maryland collateral inheritance tax and the options available for estate planning and asset distribution.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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