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Small Estates

1. General Information
2. Qualifying Estates
3. Requirements for Opening a Small Estate


Maryland law requires that the custodian of a document appearing to be a Last Will and Testament (including Codicils, if any) of the decedent shall file it promptly with the Register of Wills in the jurisdiction in which the decedent was domiciled at the time of death, even if it is not to be offered for probate. When there are any assets in the decedent's name alone, called “probate assets,” they must be reported to the Register of Wills. A personal representative will be appointed to manage the estate based on who is named in a valid Will or according to Maryland law.

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When the decedent’s probate assets have a gross value of $50,000 or less, the estate will be opened as a “small estate.” * This process has fewer requirements than a larger “regular estate,” has no required fee to the Register of Wills**, and very rarely requires involvement by any court. The overwhelming majority of small estates are opened and administered administratively under the guidance and supervision of the Register of Wills.

* If the surviving spouse is the sole heir or legatee, the decedent’s estate may be opened as a small estate if the gross value is $100,000 or less.

** For estates opening prior to 10/1/2022, a small estate fee will be owed based on the value of the estate. Please consult the "Fees" page for more information.

The threshold to qualify as a small estate has changed over time. For decedents dying prior to 10/1/2012, please consult the table below:

7/1/00 to 9/30/2012$30,000/$50,000 if surviving spouse is sole heir/legatee
7/1/88 to 6/30/00$20,000
7/1/82 to 6/30/88$10,000
7/1/78 to 6/30/82$7,500
7/1/74 to 6/30/78$5,000
1/1/70 to 6/30/74$2,000
Prior to 1970$1,000
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For a general list of items you may be required to furnish to open a small estate, click here.

For a sample packet of forms required to open a small estate, click here.

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