In the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Register of Wills Association is pushing three pieces of legislation that will benefit the public:
1. Paper Reduction Initiative
This bill, introduced by Delegate Christian Miele of Baltimore County, would reduce the volume of documents stored by the Registers by over 90%. For almost 20 years now, these offices scan, image, and archive all papers they receive. Using these high-resolution, secure images, documents can be easily reproduced. This legislation would allow the Registers to dispose of the original paper files, except any wills or codicils (amendments to wills). This enormous reduction will save the state – Archives and the Registers – and local jurisdictions – which are required to house the Registers in their courthouse – time and money in terms of storage, equipment, and maintenance.
2. Ending Use of Certified Mail in Probate
For many years, state law requires that notices given to interested persons in estate matters be sent by certified mail. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Registers of Wills collected over $230,000 in certified mail charges from estates that could have otherwise gone to a decedent’s loved ones. This legislation would allow for these notices to be given by first-class mail, like most other legal notices, saving Maryland families hundreds of thousands of dollars and saving the Registers countless hours of staff time compiling and mailing these notices.
3. Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act
As we manage our finances and actually have assets that exist in the digital world, the law must adjust to this trend and enable the fiduciaries – personal representatives, trustees, guardians, etc. – to be able to access these assets. Often when a loved one passes away, the family feels powerless or lost when dealing with the decedent’s online profile – bank accounts, assets, social media, and more. This legislation would provide explicit statutory authority for personal representatives (ie. executors) to be able to access the decedent’s assets and manage their affairs appropriately.