The Probate Process in Maryland: Probate Terminology



Welcome back to Part 2 of our series on probate in Maryland! The Gormley Law Firm is pleased to share this information! We are experienced probate lawyers in Maryland, and assist clients statewide and in Washington, DC. We can also help with estate litigation, creating estate plans, trusts and other related probate matters.

In our previous post, we talked about the unique history of probate in Maryland and the responsibilities of the Orphans’ Court and the Register of Wills.  In today’s post, we’re talking about terminology of the probate process.

Remember, these are just basic terms, but you’ll have a very good start on understanding probate if you are familiar with these terms.

Beneficiary – A person who inherits property from a decedent.

Bond – A type of insurance policy that a person may be required to have in order to serve as a Personal Representative of an estate. It protects the assets of an estate.

Caveat – A challenge to the validity of a Last Will and Testament and/or Codicil.

Codicil – An amendment or supplement to a Last Will and Testament.

Decedent – A person, male or female, who has died.

Estate – Property owned by a person (including real estate, stocks or bonds, business interests, bank accounts, or tangible personal property such as a car, boat, jewelry or furnishings). Generally, ‘estate’ refers to property owned by a decedent.

Executor/Executrix – An old term that is still used in some states that refers to the person appointed to handle a decedent’s final affairs. The term used in Maryland today is Personal Representative.

Fiduciary – A person required to act for the benefit of another.

Heir – One who inherits property (whether real or personal) when the decedent dies intestate.

Intestate – To die without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament.

Last Will and Testament – A written document, signed in accordance with the requirements of State law, which describes to whom property is to be distributed at death and names a Personal Representative to handle the decedent’s final affairs. Usually is just called a Will.

Legatee – A person (or trust) who inherits property from a decedent pursuant to a Last Will and Testament.

Letters of Administration – A legal document authorizing a person appointed Personal Representative or Special Administrator to act on behalf of an estate.

Non-probate property – Property not subject to the terms of a decedent’s Last Will and Testament.

Personal Representative – A person appointed to handle a decedent’s final affairs.

Probate – Literally means “to prove” that a document is a decedent’s Last Will and Testament. Probate generally refers to opening and administering an estate after a person dies.

Probate assets – Assets owned by a decedent that are in his or her sole name.

Will – The common term for a Last Will and Testament, which is a written document, signed in accordance with the requirements of State law, that describes to whom property is to be distributed at death and names a Personal Representative to handle the decedent’s final affairs.

The Gormley Law Firm is pleased to present this series on the probate process in Maryland! Give us a call at 1.240.514.2358 for a free consultation on your individual matter, or use the Contact Us feature to send us a message.


Brian Gormley, Esq. is an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia specializing in real estate, probate, estate litigation and other matters. If you need assistance, please use the Contact Feature at the bottom of this page.
© Copyright Gormley Law Office 2020

Probate, Estate Planning and Real Estate Attorney
Brian Gormley, Esq. is an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia specializing in real estate, probate, estate litigation and other matters. If you need assistance, please use the Contact Feature at the bottom of this page.
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