How Probate Laws Work in Maine

When a loved one dies, their assets must be distributed to the heirs. This can be a complicated process as you deal with grieving your loss. However, it is a necessary part of handling the estate, which cannot be delayed.

When a person’s estate is to be given to heirs, it usually must go through a legal process known as probate. Whether you are the executor or an heir or interested party, it’s important to understand how this process works for your state.

Is Probate Required in Maine?

Much of the time, probate will be necessary for estates in Maine. The court is required to ensure the assets of the estate are handled as directed by the will or by state law. Some assets may be exempt from probate with automatic transfer to the heirs. In other cases, probate may be simplified because of the size of the estate. In this case, the executor or heir would fill out an affidavit saying that the assets may be transferred to them and present it to the holder of the asset, such as with a bank account.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Maine?

It is possible to avoid probate of an estate in Maine. To do this, you must create a plan ahead of time. The best way to avoid probate is with a revocable living trust. You can put all assets in the trust. After the owner of the trust dies, the assets go to the person named as beneficiary of the trust. Other assets will not have to go through probate if they have a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Some assets have someone named as payable on death or transfer on death, such as bank accounts.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Maine be Compensated?

Yes, the person acting as executor or administrator may be compensated for the time they put in and any expenses they incur because they are managing the estate. They should keep copies of receipts and record their time for verification.

How Much Does an Executor in Maine Get Paid?

Maine Code doesn’t designate a specific amount for compensating the executor. In Section 3-719, it does state they should be paid a reasonable amount. If the will provides for compensation, the personal representative may accept that amount or denounce it for reasonable compensation. This could happen if the will was made out many years ago and costs have increased.

How Long Does Probate in Maine Take?

Probate can be quite complicated and take a long time. Even a simple estate may take at least four to six months. Creditors are given time to file a claim against the estate. If there is more to be done with the assets or if someone contests the will, it may cause delays that extend the time by months or even years in rare cases. A prime example is when assets need to be sold to pay creditors or to distribute the proceeds to the heirs at the end of probate. This can take several months to complete.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Maine?

Most estates will need to go through probate, simply because they were not set up to avoid it. However, smaller estates may avoid formal probate with an affidavit as long as the value is less than $40,000. Real estate with a transfer on death deed can also avoid probate and go directly to the named person. If the person placed all assets in a living trust or if all assets have a named beneficiary, the estate can bypass probate.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Maine?

When a person dies, the will must be filed with the court in the county where the person lived. The court will verify that the will is valid. It is also during this time that other people may contest the will if they believe it isn’t valid or another will exists, which is more recent.

Settling an Estate in Maine

Settling an estate is similar regardless of the state where it is located. However, the regulations and statutes may be a bit different on the timeline and other details of the process. It’s critical that you understand these differences and follow the rules for Maine.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in Maine?

Probate must be filed within three years of the person’s death as listed in the Maine Code Title 18-C Section 3-108. There are a few exceptions where probate would be accepted after this deadline.

Probate Court in Maine

Maine has a probate court for each county in the state. You can find contact information for each of the 16 courts at the State of Maine Judicial Branch website: State of Maine Judicial Branch: Probate Matters.

Probate Code in Maine

A new code was adopted and put into effect in September of 2019, which replaced the former code. It is Title 18-C of the Maine Code, which can be found online: Title 18-C: PROBATE CODE (maine.gov).

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