Some Maryland residents may wonder about what happens to a person's assets after he or she dies. While estate administration can seem complicated and daunting, it does not have to be difficult. All assets that a person owns as of the date of death are considered a part of the estate. It may also be necessary to file a tax return on behalf of the deceased individual, depending on the value of the estate.
The first step is to find out whether the deceased person left a will or trust. The process can be different if there is a written record of how assets should be distributed. If there is a will, it often names the person with authority to execute the will and distribute assets. When there is a will, the executor takes the will to the courthouse to begin the probate process. Assets will be distributed in accordance with the deceased person's wishes. Alternatively, a person may have left a trust with specific instructions for settling the estate.
If there is no will or trust, state law determines how assets are distributed. There could also be a contract, such as a beneficiary designation with a bank that names who will receive life insurance, retirement accounts or similar assets. In that case, the asset will transfer to the beneficiary without a need for probate. If property is held jointly, it also may not need to go through the probate process.
An estate attorney may be able to help those who are planning for their estates by advising them on choosing an administrator. The attorney may also be able to help with determining whether probate is necessary. In a situation where a family member or loved one has died, the attorney may be able to help simplify the process of distributing the estate.