Selling Probate Real Estate in Greenbelt, DM – 5 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

by | Aug 16, 2021 | Blog

Selling probate real estate in Maryland is a complicated and lengthy process. Trying to navigate it on your own can open the door to unnecessary mistakes, complications and, headaches. It can cause the process to be prolonged even further, significantly increasing the costs associated with the process. Leonard, a young husband and father from Greenbelt, MD found out for himself just how complicated the process is when he inherited a house from his uncle. Having heard from a friend about his own nightmarish experience with probate real estate, Leonard did some research to find a better way to get through the process. His research led him to us here at Akin Developers. To better understand Leonard’s situation, it is important to also better understand the probate real estate process in Maryland, and some common mistakes that can be made.

Maryland Probate Process

Maryland Law, according to the Office of Register of Wills, requires that a person’s Last Will & Testament be filed with the Register of Wills in the county where they were living when they died. The person who holds the Will is required to file it very soon after the decedent’s death. Any assets the decedent owned in just their name also must be reported to the Register of Wills. And a Personal Representative must be appointed and, Letters of Administration issued to them. The Personal Representative (known as Executor in other states) “is under general duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the will and the estates of decedents law as expeditiously and with little sacrifice of value as is reasonable under the circumstances.” The Register of Wills website further states that “more specifically, in a regular estate the personal representative has a duty to take possession of and marshall assets; prepare and file an inventory and information report; prepare and file an accounting; pay debts, taxes and, costs of administration; and fulfill all other responsibilities required by Maryland Law. Yes, that’s a lot!

Leonard as Personal Representative

Although Leonard had agreed years ago to serve as Personal Representative for his uncle’s estate, he had done so because he was the only living relative. He had never asked what those responsibilities would be and had never really even thought any more about it until his uncle’s death. Leonard contacted the Office of Register of Wills to find out what he was required to do. After talking with them and reading the booklet they gave him, he was overwhelmed. He had no idea that he would be responsible for doing so many major things, nor how costly those tasks could become. He and his wife had just had their third child, so they were facing all of those hospital bills on top of the other expenses for a newborn, like all of those diapers! So the thought of even possibly having to come up with any more money for issues with his uncle’s estate caused a lot of anxiety. Even more overwhelming he said was that not only did those tasks all have to be done in a specific order, but people and bills had to be paid in a certain prioritized order too. Leonard said the only thing he felt relatively comfortable that he could do correctly from the list in the booklet was, “employing specialists to advise or assist“, so he did his research and reached out to us.

5 Common Mistakes

There are quite a few mistakes commonly made by people in Leonard’s situation. This is just a list of five of those mistakes that are not only easy to make but can result in you being held personally and financially responsible for any decrease in value to the estate caused by your actions (or inactions).
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Trying to handle the process on your own OR hiring the wrong people to help you

As Leonard recognized, there are a lot of “do’s & don’ts” involved in selling probate real estate and one misstep can prove to be extremely costly to the personal representative. If you decide that handling everything on your own is a mistake, do not hire the first person you speak with. Ask around, do your research, read reviews, then hire the professional you are certain can handle the task professionally and as quickly as possible.
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Selling real estate or other property without legal permission, or before probate

The Personal Representative can ask the court for permission to sell estate assets but that permission but be legally granted before the actual sale is completed. And in the case of real estate, even after permission is granted and an offer is accepted, and a deposit made, it is a conditional contract. That offer must be brought before the court for approval, and an auction is opened to accept a higher bid. Only after the winning bid of that auction is accepted and the purchase price is delivered to the court, can a contract be finalized and a closing formalized for that property.
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Leaving probate real estate unattended for any length of time

Uninhabited property that is left unattended or vacant for any length of time becomes a prime target for squatters and vandals. It could also incur damage from animals or storms that may go unnoticed until it becomes a major repair job. This decreases the value of the real estate property and the Personal Representative could find themselves personally liable for that damage.
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Incorrectly valuing the assets of the estate

This important step in the process can have a lot of “moving parts”. You may be required to hire a certified appraiser, and to decide which ”value” for real property should be used when listing assets: comparative market value (CMV), tax assessment value, or appraisal. Choosing the wrong method could result in paying additional taxes that you don’t owe.
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Making state payments incorrectly/in the wrong order

In Maryland, there is a very specific order in which payments are to be made from the estate, beginning with fees that are owed to the Register of Wills, ending with “other claims” and family allowance and taxes owed by the decedent somewhere in the middle of the list. Making those payments out of order can place personal financial responsibility for payment on the Personal Representative.

Conclusion

Calling upon our vast network of professionals, we were able to connect Leonard with a skilled and trusted probate attorney who could walk him through the process and take care of the legalities. We placed an offer on the property and eventually ended up successfully purchasing it. Because we buy houses in just about any condition, we were able to offer Leonard a fair price even though several repairs and improvements needed to be made on the house. Yes, selling probate real estate in Maryland is a complicated and lengthy process. Letting us help you navigate the process can save you stress, time, and ultimately money.

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