Q: I retained an attorney to handle my Mother's estate but months later decided to release him.
My Mothers has minimal assets. Can I represent my Mothers estate and if so, what are the next steps?
A: I am sorry for your loss. Based on the little detail provided, I do not suggest you administer the estate yourself without consulting with an attorney. There may be steps you overlook by doing so. Contact a local attorney for a consult to discuss whether you can do this on your own.
Go to the Register of Wills website, and download the estate packet applicable to the gross value of the assets in the estate (without deduction of any loans on the assets, like a mortgage): $50,000 or less is a Small Estate; above $50,000 is a Regular Estate. You may also qualify for a Modified Administration, which streamlines the process and what needs to be filed, if the only heirs are your mother's spouse and/or lineal descendants (children, e.g.), and all heirs agree and sign consents, but modified administration must be elected within 3 months of your appointment as Personal Representative.
Here's the link: http://registers.maryland.gov/main/
Go to "Forms" then scroll down to the bottom of the page under the "packet" heading, and select one of the following: Small Estate Packet, Regular Estate Packet, or Modified Administration Packet.
These packets contain most of what you need to file to open an estate, but they do not contain a form for the estate account, which you will have to file. For general guidance on how to draft an account, and on how and when to file particular forms as well as what other actions are required, scroll back up to the list of links across the page and select "Publications." On that page are a number of guides, pamphlets, helpful hints, a sample account to use as a template, and other helpful information.
You will need to determine where in the process your lawyer has left the estate. If the estate was opened, then the initial petition, advertisements, bond, appointment of the PR, and possibly the Inventory (due within 90 days of appointment) may all be filed already. Go to the "Estate Search" link on the top of the page to look up your mother's estate docket and look at the listed filings in the estate. You can pay a small fee to download any filing in the estate directly to your computer so you can see and read whatever is in the document.
In addition, the Register of Wills provides members of the public with personalized assistance with filling out and filing the necessary forms. Before COVID you would just call and make an appointment to go in and meet with one of the many assistants, but how they are handling those appointments now you will have to learn when you call.
Good luck to you.
If the estate is a "small estate" (i.e., one with total assets under $50,000 if no surviving spouse) the process is greatly simplified. In many cases Personal Representatives can handle a small estate without formal attorney representation. Even with a small estate you may find it helpful to consult with an attorney just to understand the process and time frames. For example, a small estate that disburses assets too early can find itself in difficult trouble if creditors later try to assert claims.
The Register of Wills clerks tend to be very helpful but the law prevents them from offering any legal advice or representing a party. The clerks can give sample forms but they cannot answer legal questions and will not be able to offer guidance on such issues as how one heir can buy out other interest, nor can they assist with obtaining bond, preparing deeds or obtaining an EIN for the estate or negotiating with creditors or any of the other things people routinely need legal help with in an estate.
If the estate is a "regular estate" (with total assets over $50,000) then legal assistance can be extremely beneficial. Sometimes my firm is contacted by Personal Representatives who tried to handle an estate only to find out they failed to properly deed property out of an estate or failed to properly document Personal Representative advances to the estate or failed to take a commission.
While not legal advice I hope this general information helps.
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