A person who drafts his will is known as a testator. A will is the legal document that names one or more persons to manage the testator’s estate and provides for the transfer and distribution of his property at death according to his wishes. When the testator dies, the law refers to him as a decedent. Probate is the legal process of executing a will, administering all claims against an estate and distributing the estate’s assets. Maryland state laws for probate govern the statute of limitations for challenging the execution of a will.
The Maryland Office of Register of Wills and the Orphans' Court administer Maryland probate laws and ensure that an estate pays the proper fees and taxes. Each county in Maryland has a Register of Wills and an Orphans' Court as does Baltimore City. The Register of Wills acts as the Clerk, or administrative arm, of the Orphan’s Court. The Maryland Orphans' Court is a special court that adjudicates probate matters and is composed of three elected judges in each court. The judges interpret the will, oversee the resolution of all claims against the estate and ensure the executor, or personal representative, distributes the estate’s assets pursuant to the will’s instructions.
Typically, a testator appoints a legal representative to oversee the execution of the testator’s will upon death. The legal representative is referred to as the executor. If a person dies intestate, without a legal will, a court may appoint a personal representative to oversee the administration of the decedent’s estate. Family members and individuals to which the testator leaves assets in a will are referred to as heirs. Creditors who the decedent may have owed money to may make claims against the decedent’s estate. Maryland law, however, sets a time limit for creditors to make claims against a decedent’s estate.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a period of time set by statute that a person has to assert a legal right. Generally, if a person waits past the statute of limitations to assert a legal right, a judge will bar that person from pursuing their right in court. A testator could die before the statute of limitation runs on various claims against that person. In that scenario, the Maryland law has special rules for how persons and companies can make claims against the estate.
Statute of Limitations for a Will
Generally, creditors cannot make claims against an estate if the statute of limitations for their claim expired while the decedent was alive. For example, the statute of limitations for contracts not written under seal in Maryland is three years. If that three year period expired while a decedent was alive, a person or company cannot make a claim against the estate for breach of contract. Under the Maryland Code, however, if the statute of limitations has not run by the time of the decedent’s death, creditors have six months from the time of death to make a claim against the estate. After the six months period expires, creditors lose their right to make a claim.
It is advisable to contact a qualified attorney licensed to practice in Maryland to find out how the facts of a particular situation apply to Maryland probate laws, which are subject to change.