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Paper Reduction Initiative Signed Into Law

On Tuesday, May 10th, Governor Larry Hogan signed House Bill 472 into law. This bill, introduced by Delegate Christian Miele of Baltimore County, will reduce the volume of documents stored by the Registers by over 90%. For almost 20 years now, the Registers of Wills have been scanning and imaging 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.

Byron is grateful to Delegate Miele for sponsoring this legislation and for his colleagues’ support in this endeavor. Together, this simple, good government bill, is now law.

Register’s Office Receives Exemplary Review in Recent Report

The Office of Legislative Audits, in a routine review of the operations of the office of the Register of Wills for Howard County, has concluded that the office has no “significant deficiencies in the design of operation of the Office’s internal control,” nor does it have any “significant instances of noncompliance with applicable laws, rules, or regulations.” Byron and his dedicated staff have worked diligently over many years to ensure that this office’s fiscal operations are conducted with precision and integrity. This report demonstrates that Byron’s leadership has produced a highly efficient, fiscally sound public office that Howard County residents can be proud of. Byron’s office generates between $2.5 and $3 million in revenue each year, the vast majority of which is placed into the state General Fund to support public health, primary and higher education, transportation, and public safety.

For more information, the full audit report can be found here.

Registers Push 2016 Legislative Agenda

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.

Byron Reflects on Five-Year Anniversary as Register

Five years ago today I was sworn in as Register of Wills for Howard County. As I think back, I’m reminded of my family and friends who were with me from the beginning and the new friends and supporters I’d met during that campaign. We proved that a grassroots campaign inspired by compassion and service to others could defy the odds, overcome prejudice and win.

Today I also reflect on what I’ve done with this tremendous opportunity. Five years ago I hit the ground running and haven’t slowed down. My goal has been to provide the people of Howard County with the kind of government they deserve – efficient, caring, and progressive. With the support of the dedicated professionals I am fortunate to work with, my office provides just that. We ensure that grieving families get the answers and guidance they need when they need it most, and leave here knowing that we care. I speak with public employees, seniors, college students, church groups, and civic organizations to give them the tools to plan for the future and protect their families. I have led and continue to lead efforts to implement statewide reforms to make probate in Maryland faster and fairer. And I have been committed to making this office operate – from accounting to communication, procurement, technology and otherwise – at peak efficiency.

Going forward, there’s a lot of work to be done to better serve the people of Howard County and the state of Maryland. And there is a lot of work to be done to restore confidence in government. I’ll keep doing my part by working hard and delivering results.

Byron Re-Elected With 73,537 Votes

Facing no primary or general election opponent, Byron was officially re-elected as Register of Wills for Howard County with 73,357 votes – one of the highest vote totals for any candidate in Howard County history. “I am extremely grateful for the confidence the people of Howard County have placed in me to serve them in a second term as Register. There is much more work to be done to enhance our technological capabilities and improve the legal framework for probate to make this process easier, fairer, and less expensive for all Maryland families. I intend to continue to lead the efforts to accomplish these goals.”

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Endorses Byron for Re-Election

In early December 2013, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to  electing committed and qualified LGBT candidates to public office, endorsed Byron for re-election as Register of Wills for Howard County. The Victory Fund previously endorsed Byron in his first race for this office in 2010.

“I am honored and humbled to have the endorsement of the Victory Fund as I pursue re-election this year. This is an organization with a simple mission: ensuring that the LGBT community has a seat at the table. The past three years, I have been a steadfast advocate for equality for LGBT Marylanders. In the years to come, I will continue to give voice to this vibrant community.”

In 2012, Byron was a leader in the ballot referendum on marriage equality, better known as “Question 6.” With the support of fellow Howard County officials like County Executive Ken Ulman, nearly 60% of county voters came out to the polls to support marriage equality, the second-highest vote percentage of any jurisdiction in Maryland.

Fall Fundraiser with County Executive Ken Ulman Draws Big Crowd

On Wednesday, October 9, 2013, joined by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Byron thanked a large crowd of family, friends, and supporters who came to boost his campaign for re-election. More than 75 guests attended, including State Delegates Guy Guzzone and Frank Turner (District 13), County Council Members Calvin Ball (District 2) and Jen Terrasa (District 3), Sheriff Jim Fitzgerald, candidates for state delegate Tom Coale (District 9B), Clarence Lam and Terri Hill (District 12), and George Zokle (District 20), along with former Democratic Party Chairs Carole Fisher and Tony McGuffin. Below are some photos from the event:

FALL FUNDRAISER WITH COUNTY EXECUTIVE KEN ULMAN DRAWS BIG CROWD
Byron with County Executive Ken Ulman and local blogger Claire Bolden McGill.
FALL FUNDRAISER WITH COUNTY EXECUTIVE KEN ULMAN DRAWS BIG CROWD
Byron with community activist Sherman Howell.
FALL FUNDRAISER WITH COUNTY EXECUTIVE KEN ULMAN DRAWS BIG CROWD
Byron with supporters Andrew Woods, Dan Furman, and Roswell Encina.

Byron Elected President of the Maryland Register of Wills Association

On Thursday, September 17, 2013, Byron Macfarlane was elected President of the Maryland Register of Wills Association. Receiving the unanimous support of his colleagues to take on this leadership post, he was sworn in immediately. The Association’s mission is to form collaborative relationships among the Registers of Wills from Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, to improve services, establish uniform procedures, advocate for legislation that will benefit the public, enhance services through new technology, and to partner with other government agencies to best serve the public. Byron’s goals for his term include technological advances for the Association and the Registers’ offices, moving the Registers closer to e-filing, and continuing to build relationships with stakeholders across Maryland.

Byron had previously served as Vice President from 2012-2013. He also served on the Personnel and Automation Committees since 2010 and chaired the Legislative Committee from 2011-2013.

Byron being sworn in by Assistant Attorney General David Hayes. To Byron’s right are Karen Lemon (Wicomico County), Loraine Hennessy (Charles County), and Rita Watson (Garrett County), who were sworn in as Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary, respectively.

Register Macfarlane Hosts Legislative Update with Local Attorneys

On May 30, 2013, Register of Wills Macfarlane hosted numerous local estates & trusts attorneys to provide them with an update on legislation enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in its 2013 session. The meeting was held in the Orphans’ Court hearing room, where various changes were discussed at length.

Register Macfarlane began this annual tradition in 2012 to ensure an open and constructive dialogue with local practitioners. He explains how his office will implement new procedures and offers guidance on best practices to ensure efficient and timely administration of estates. He also obtains feedback and input from attorneys on future legislation. As a member of the Maryland Register of Wills Association’s Legislative Committee, of which he is a past chair, Mr. Macfarlane finds these viewpoints extremely valuable in shaping the Association’s legislative agenda. These meetings also fulfill the pledge he made when he ran for Register in 2010 to be active and engaged with community groups across Howard County. He will hold another session in May of 2014.