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4 misconceptions about the probate process

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2023 | Estate Planning - Estate Administration & Probate

As of 2020, the CDC reported a life expectancy of 76.8 years for Maryland residents. When people die, settling the estate of the deceased person, or the probate process, often seems complex and daunting.

In Maryland, several misconceptions exist that can make this process even more challenging. Busting these myths can help individuals better understand the Maryland probate process, easing concerns and potential confusion.

Myth 1: Probate always takes years to complete

One common misconception is that probate always takes years to complete. While it is true that complex estates can take a significant amount of time to settle, many probate cases in Maryland wrap up within a year. The duration depends on factors such as the complexity of the estate, the presence of a valid will and whether anyone contests the will.

Myth 2. All assets go through probate

Another common misunderstanding is that all assets of the deceased must go through probate. In reality, only assets owned solely by the deceased and without a designated beneficiary require probate.

Assets held jointly or those with a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, usually bypass the probate process. Moreover, Maryland law allows for the simplified probate process or even the exemption of probate for smaller estates.

Myth 3. A will eliminates the need for probate

Many people believe that having a will eliminates the need for probate. This belief is a misconception. A will serves as a guide for the probate process, outlining how to distribute the deceased’s assets. Probate ensures the legal transfer of these assets, even when a will exists.

Myth 4. Probate depletes the value of the estate

The myth that probate costs deplete the value of the estate is another misconception. While there are costs associated with probate, including court fees and potential taxes, they do not usually consume the majority of the estate.

Despite the complexities of probate, it is a manageable process with the right knowledge and preparation.