Cookeville, TN asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Maryland

Q: I have just been notified that my bilogical father passed away. He had no will and I'm the only living heir

I have had no relationship with him nor anyone for almost 50 yrs. Apparently he really didnt have anything. A crappy car, bank acct. I live in TN his estate is in MD. My question is what do I do? I'm not spending a penny to do anything for a stranger for might be nothing in the end. Help

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4 Lawyer Answers
Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN

A: You don't HAVE to do anything. If you want any of his stuff, you can hire an attorney in MD to help you probate his estate. For a small estate, there might be an expedited procedure. If you do nothing, and nobody else (such as a creditor of his) does anything either, then his things will escheat to the state and you will still have a couple more years to claim them, and after that it all goes to the state.

Cedulie Renee Laumann
Cedulie Renee Laumann
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crownsville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: It is not possible to get assets titled in the name of the deceased person without opening an estate. When someone passes in this state with less than $50,000 in total assets, the estate counts as a "small estate" with a streamlined process and usually less expense than a regular estate.

An attorney can't predict what an heir would net without knowing the value of the estate assets and the likelihood of creditor claims. Maryland law gives priority to pay claims in a certain order with an insolvent estate.

Few people are motivated to administer an estate that nets nothing, but it may be worth a phone call or two to discuss the specifics of your parent's estate before making a determination. While not legal advice I hope this general information helps.

Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: If he had nothing, you have nothing. If he had a Will and gave everything to someone else or designated a beneficiary for his liquid assets, and that isn't you, you have nothing. You might have a right to the crappy car. If he had something in the bank, the bank isn't allowed to tell you what he had until you are appointed personal representative, and that requires a petition and, usually, a lawyer. If you aren't spending a penny, you have nothing. Good luck, and I'm sorry for your loss, whatever that might be.

Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Well, you are not legally required to do anything. You can ignore the whole situation if you choose. Somebody will have to petition to open an estate and be named Personal Representative, and that can be any adult. As the only heir, you would have priority to be appointed if you petitioned--but it sounds as though you will not petition, so it is up to somebody else. I assume he was not married (otherwise his spouse would have an interest in his estate), so maybe a close friend will step in, or the person who arranged the disposition of his body. Who notified you that he passed? If nobody steps up, and you do not come forward, the estate will be held by the State of Maryland and after a period of time, all assets will go to the Board of Education, or to the Department of Mental Hygiene if the decedent was in long-term medical care under the Maryland Medical Assistance Program. If that happens, you have a limited time frame to apply for a refund of any assets paid over in this way. The risk you take is that there are more assets than you know at the moment, or maybe there are some family artifacts (old photos, information about your family tree, etc.) that perhaps you might want to know about or have, which will be lost forever if you don't claim them now. If you wanted to act as PR, then that probably would require you traveling to Maryland at least for a day to close the bank account, donate or sell the car, go through and claim any personal effects you deem of value or interest to you. A PR also must designate someone who maintains a residence or office presence in the State of Maryland for receipt of any possible legal papers, so that could be a problem if you do not know anybody. Typically, a foreign-resident PR would hire a local attorney to handle the estate for them, but that of course would cost money. If there is money in the estate sufficient to pay a lawyer, then that would not be an issue; but if not, you will probably not go that route.

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