3.0 Administrative Probate
3.1 The Statute:
“§ 5-301. Nature of proceeding
Administrative probate is a proceeding instituted by the filing of a petition for probate by an interested person before the register for the probate of a will or a determination of the intestacy of the decedent, and for the appointment of a personal representative. Subject to the provisions of § 5-402 of this title, the proceeding may be conducted without prior notice, and is final, to the extent provided in § 5-304 of this subtitle, subject to the right of an interested person to require judicial probate as provided in Subtitle 4 of this title.”
“§ 5-304. Finality of action in administrative probate
(a) In general. — Unless a timely request for judicial probate has been filed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, or unless a request has been filed pursuant to § 5-402 of this title within six months of administrative probate, any action taken after administrative probate shall be final and binding as to all interested persons. Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a defect in a petition or proceeding relating to administrative probate shall not affect the probate or the grant of letters.
(b) Exceptions. — An administrative probate may be set aside and a proceeding for judicial probate instituted if, following a request by an interested person within 18 months of the death of decedent, the court finds that:
(1) The proponent of a later offered will, in spite of the exercise of reasonable diligence in efforts to locate any will, was actually unaware of the existence of a will at the time of the prior probate;
(2) The notice provided in § 2-210 of this article was not given to such interested person nor did he have actual notice of the petition for probate; or
(3) There was fraud, material mistake, or substantial irregularity in the prior probate proceeding.”
3.2 General Principles of Administrative Probate
Administrative probate is conducted under the supervision of the Register of Wills and requires no formal court hearings. Generally it is based on the statements in the petition for probate.
Judicial probate, on the other hand, is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Orphans’ Court, requires notice and a formal hearing (see below).
3.3 Finality of Administrative Probate
As noted, Est. & Trusts § 5-304 makes any action conducted in administrative probate “final and binding” except under certain defined circumstances. One such circumstance is if there is an “irregularity in the prior probate proceeding,” in which case judicial probate case be triggered.
The failure to give a statutory “interested person” notice of an action is an “irregularity.” In Radcliff v. Vance, 360 Md. 277 (2000) (see section 1.6 of these materials, above), the Court held that failure to give an interested person the statutory notice is an irregularity for the purpose of finality. [Radcliff involved notice under Est. & Trusts § 7-502, proposed payment to an attorney.] The notice, however, must be to the “interested person” as defined by Est. & Trusts § 1-101(i). Thus, when a trust is the legatee, the trustees not the trust beneficiaries are the statutory interested persons. The beneficiaries, however, may under the common law object to an accounting but they are not included under the statutory definition and therefore not entitled to notice. Vito ex rel. Vito v. Klausmeyer, 216 Md. App. 376 (2014).