Calvert Heights, MD asked in Landlord - Tenant for Maryland

Q: Eviction hearing Monday. Defendant died. What should love ones do? Time to empty house?

My dad has an Eviction hearing on Monday. He died this week before hearing? He was the only person on lease. What should we do? Notify the landlord?court? Do we have time to try to get his affairs in order?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: If you want his personal belongings from the premises, and you do not have access to the apartment, then you will need to open an estate for your father and have Letters of Administration issued to somebody acting as Personal Representative (PR) of his estate. If he had a will, he would have appointed somebody to act as PR, and you wuld file the will along with the petition to open the estate. If he had no will, then a family member would have to petition. Once Letters of Administration are issued, the PR can then take possession of his property, including closing all his bank accounts and depositing the funds into an estate account opened for that purpose. If he owned a car, it could then be sold by the PR and the proceeds also deposited into the estate account. The estate funds may be used to first pay administrative expenses, reimburse funeral and burial costs, etc., before paing creditors or distribution to the heirs. The PR would also be in charge of fairly distributing your father's personal belongings among his heirs, as well as paying any creditors of your father out of the estate assets. If he had assets of any worth ($50,000 or more), you may want to retain estate/probate counsel. If not, you can probably manage the estate on your own, after making an appointment with the Register of Wills in the county where your father resided at the time of his death. They will walk you through the process and assist you in filling out the forms. The forms are available on the Register of Wills website, and there is a "Regular" and "Small" Estate packet that contains all the forms you will need to open the estate. A Small Estate is any estate under $50,000 in assets. If he had retirement accounts, those usually have transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiaries so those assets are not included in his estate (TOD accounts are paid directly to the named beneficiaries).

As for the eviction proceeding, the court can issue the judgment for eviction, but it often takes several weeks before the landlord can obtain a writ of possession and arrange for the Sheriff to schedule the actual eviction. They cannot go in beforehand. I am sure if you advised the landlord of the situation, they would cooperate in allowing you to clear out the tenant space and voluntarily return any keys over without the need for the Sheriff. Heirs have no liability for the debts of a deceased person; rather, the creditors of a deceased person can only file a claim against the deceased person's estate. They are the last in line to be paid anything before distribution of the estate to the heirs, and if there are no assets to pay out, then they get nothing. Also, unless a creditor files a formal claim in writing in the estate matter within 6 months of death (or 2 months after receiving formal notice to file claims), then they lose the right to make any claim at all.

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