Maine Probate (2024)

Maine’s probate law provides rules for the organized transfer of the property of someone who has passed away. The court must supervise the estate of a decedent and authorize the transfer of its assets regardless of whether the decedent left a will. 18-C ME Rev Stat § 3-102 et seq. To open up an estate and begin the process, a petition, the will, if there is one, and the death certificate must be filed with the Probate Court. There are 16 Probate Courts and judges, one for each county. The Probate Court in the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death has jurisdiction over the mater. 18-C ME Rev Stat § 3-201. For example, if the decedent was domiciled in Auburn, then the Probate Court in Androscoggin County would have jurisdiction over their estate. Initiating and managing the probate process is necessary but can be difficult without a general understanding of the process. An experienced Maine probate lawyer can help.

Probate in Maine

Probate is often used to describe both the process of the will being proved and as well as the administration process which includes the decedent’s financial affairs being finalized and their assets being legally transferring to their family, friends, or institutions according to the terms of their will or according to Maine law. The personal representative is responsible for ensuring that these tasks are completed, and the process is overseen by the Probate Court. Generally, the probate process takes about 9-12 months. However, as an experienced Maine probate lawyer can explain, it can take longer if there are complications such as litigation, and it can take less time if the estate has minimal assets and is uncomplicated.

In order to settle the estate, the following steps must be completed:

  • Inventory. The personal representative must identify the assets in the probate estate, secure them, and appraise them. Once the personal representative takes over the management of the estate, it is their responsibility to protect those assets so that the value of the estate does not decline. The personal representative must also determine the value of the estate as that will determine whether there are enough assets to pay estate debt and what will be available to distribute to beneficiaries and heirs.
  • Debt and expenses. The personal representative must pay estate debt. Claimants are given a timeframe to file claims against the estate. As an experience probate attorney serving Maine will explain, the personal representative has an obligation to review all claims that are timely filed and pay the valid ones. In addition, the personal representative must pay expenses of administration and outstanding taxes.
  • Asset distribution. The personal representative is responsible for distributing estate assets. However, debts, expenses, and taxes must be paid first. If the decedent left a will, then it will direct how the assets are to be distributed. Otherwise, the personal representative must follow Maine’s intestacy rules and distribute to the decedent’s next of kin. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-A, § 2-101 et seq.

Probate Litigation in Maine

The process of settling the estate of a loved one can become contentious. Raw emotions, complicated family history, and differing interests are all present during the process. The result can be disputes that the parties are not able to settle on their own. The court must get involved.

As an experienced probate attorney in Maine can explain, probate disputes can center on a wide variety of issues such as a will challenge, breach of fiduciary duty, will construction, guardianship, or dispute over ownership of estate assets. Regardless of the reason for the dispute, it can result in a delay in the process and added expense to the estate.

Small Estate Procedures in Maine

In Maine probate can take 9 months to a year. The actual amount of time depends on a number of factors including the size of the estate and whether there are complications. However, there is an alternative to the formal, long probate process that is available to small estates that meet the eligibility requirements.

Under the summary administrative procedure the personal representative, without giving notice to creditors, may immediately distribute estate assets to those entitled to those assets and file a closing statement with the probate court. To qualify for this procedure, the value of the estate cannot exceed the homestead allowance, exempt property, family allowance, administration expenses, funeral expenses, and the decedent’s medical expenses. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-A, § 3-1203.

Maine Probate (2024)


What is the probate process in Maine? ›

Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. To start the probate process, you need to file an “Application for Probate” in the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. In Maine, each county has its own probate court. If there is a Will, it needs to be submitted to the probate court.

When probate is not necessary in Maine? ›

Property owned in joint tenancy automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies. No probate is necessary. Joint tenancy often works well when couples (married or not) acquire real estate, vehicles, bank accounts or other valuable property together.

How many probate courts are in Maine? ›

The probate courts are responsible for matters involving wills and trusts in the state of Maine. The probate courts also deal with: adoptions, name changes and the appointment of guardians. The courts were established by the state's constitution in 1820. There are 16 probate courts, one in each county.

How do I find probate records in Maine? ›

Cumberland County Probate Court filings and the filings made in all of Maine's 16 counties, are available at The Probate Court docket can be viewed at no charge, and copies of Probate Court filings can be purchased at a cost of $2 per page.

What happens if someone dies without a will in Maine? ›

Learn about intestacy in Maine. If you die without a will in Maine, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws.

How much does a will cost in Maine? ›

The average cost of creating a will in Maine ranges from $200 to $600, depending on the attorney's fees and the complexity of the will.

What does an executor of a will do in Maine? ›

The primary job of your executor is to protect all of your property until any taxes and debts have been paid, at which point they are responsible for distributing your property in accordance with the will. Not every person who lives in Maine is eligible to serve as an executor of an estate.

Does Maine allow transfer on death deeds? ›

An individual may transfer for no consideration property to one or more beneficiaries effective at the transferor's death by a transfer on death deed.

What is the creditor period for probate in Maine? ›

Under current Maine law, creditors have a maximum time limit of 9 months from the date of death to present their claims to the Personal Representative. The 9-month period can be shortened if you provide a written notice to the creditor and request that the creditor promptly file the claim.

How do I close probate in Maine? ›

Once the assets have been distributed, the Personal Representative prepares a final account of all income, expenses, and distributions, and distributes the account to the beneficiaries. Finally, the Personal Representative closes the estate by filing a "Sworn Statement" with the Probate Court.

Can you sell a house in probate in Maine? ›

Selling a Maine house undergoing the probate process is by no means easy. There are so many legal processes that the property should go through before it can be listed as a probate sale. Even after the property is sold to the highest bidder, there is still paperwork to accomplish.

What is the jurisdiction of the probate court in Maine? ›

Maine Probate Courts sit without a jury and have jurisdiction over specialized matters such as: Estates of deceased and missing persons. Trusts (both formal and informal)

What is the small estate limit in Maine? ›

In order to use this affidavit, the death must have occurred at least 30 days prior to when the affidavit is signed. The value of the decedent's estate, less encumbrances and liens, must be less than $40,000 (indexed to inflation: $49,700 in 2024).

How do I find out who owns a property in Maine? ›

If only the property location is known, you need to contact the town or city tax assessor where the property is located to determine the owner. Once the name has been located in the index, a book and page will be listed. You may now pull the book to read the document or use the computer.

How to find a copy of a will in Maine? ›

Probate records of Maine are kept by the register of probate or the clerk of the probate court in each county. The records generally date from the year a county was formed. You can obtain copies of the original probate records by contacting the appropriate clerk's office.

Does a deed override a will in Maine? ›

If you have made a will or previous TOD deed that leaves the property to someone, your new TOD deed will override it. Your rights. You keep complete ownership of, and control over, the real estate while you're alive.

What is ancillary probate in Maine? ›

“Ancillary Probate” refers to the process of passing ownership in property (usually real estate, but possibly other things like a boat or mineral rights) owned in a state other than where the decedent resided.

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