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Voters often ask “What is the Register of Wills?” Read Byron’s answer.

When I tell people about my job, I’m usually presented with some form of the question “What is the Register of Wills?” People intuitively assume it has something to do with wills and the legal system, but let me explain this role more fully.

The Register of Wills is a constitutional elected office that oversees estate administration, also called “probate.” Every county in Maryland and Baltimore City has an elected Register of Wills. This office is sort of a specialty court that handles probate exclusively. What is probate? When someone dies and they have any assets titled in their name alone or without a beneficiary, those assets must go through probate. This is the legal process for distributing those assets. If the person died with a Last Will & Testament, their assets will be distributed according to the terms of the will. If the person died without a will, their assets will be distributed pursuant to Maryland’s “intestate” succession laws. The office of the Register of Wills helps families identify and account for these assets and oversees their proper distribution.

The role of Register of Wills itself is quite complex. The best way to describe it is as the director of a state government agency. I manage the office’s personnel, budget, finances, procurement, technology, and public outreach. I establish office policies and make final legal determinations when issues arise. I work with the Orphan’s Court to resolve disputes in contentious estates. I also work with my fellow Registers to adopt uniform procedures and lobby legislators to enact legislation that makes probate more efficient, fairer, and less expensive.

As an elected official, I have a sacred bond with the people of Howard County. I have a responsibility to serve people well and work hard every day to earn the honor and privilege of being Register of Wills. Having grown up here, I have a strong passion for local government and public service. I’m running for re-election to continue serving the people of Howard County with professionalism, efficiency, and compassion.

 

Byron Endorsed for Re-Election by the Ellicott City & Western Howard Democratic Club

On Tuesday, April 10 at Centennial High School, Byron was endorsed for re-election by the Ellicott City & Western Howard Democratic Club. With over 120 members present, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of Byron, who has been a member of the club for over 10 years.

“I’m proud to be endorsed for re-election by the Ellicott City & Western Howard Democratic Club. I grew up in western Howard County and firmly believe every voter in our county matters. I’ll be knocking doors in every zip code to win this election.”

Update (And Photos!) From the Campaign Trail

Since filing for re-election, Byron has been out in the community talking with voters about his accomplishments as Register of Wills and his plans to continue providing outstanding service to Howard County families. He’s spoken at candidate forums held by the Ellicott City & Western Howard Democratic Club (which recently endorsed him), the Columbia Democratic Club, the Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club, and the African American Coalition of Howard County. He’s knocked on lots of doors and held several fundraisers to rally his supporters and raise needed funds for his campaign.

Below you can see some photos from the campaign trail:

Effective Fiscal Management a Hallmark of Byron’s Tenure as Register

“My first priority as Register has always been to provide the very best service possible to Howard County families. Effectively managing the fiscal operations of my office is another responsibility I take very seriously. During my tenure, I have overseen the meticulous accounting of nearly $20 million in public funds. The overwhelming majority of these funds have been turned over to the state General Fund, which is used to support public education, health care, human services, our state parks, and more. If I’m re-elected, I’ll continue to be a diligent steward of public resources.”

Byron Promotes Leadership Increasing Transparency & Accessibility to Records

“In the past, people could only access probate records by going to a Register’s office or my mailing a printed request for copies with a check and postage-prepaid envelope. For people who don’t have time to come to the courthouse, for the increasing number of people who don’t use checks or have printers at home, and for people who need access to these records quickly, this system was inefficient and inadequate. I led the effort over several years to to allow access to our records online. Today, these records are available at the click of a button. This new system has led to a huge increase in record requests, meaning more members of the public are getting access to records that are important to them.”

Byron Touts Democratic Bona Fides in Primary for Register of Wills

“I’ve been an active Democrat since before I could vote. I’ve shown my unwavering commitment to my party and to progressive values whether my name is on the ballot or not. Standing shoulder to shoulder with my fellow Howard County Democrats, we’ve fought the good fight for years. I’ve always been a team player because I know each election isn’t about one candidate or one office – it’s about working together to build a future we believe in. If I’m the Democratic nominee, I’m confident I’ll win the general election and do my part to ensure a great Democratic victory across the board in November.”

Victory Fund Endorses Byron for Re-Election

Today, the Victory Fund endorsed Byron for re-election as Register of Wills for Howard County. Founded in 1991, this organization has helped thousands of openly LGBTQ candidates win local, state, and federal elections.

“I’m honored to be endorsed for re-election by the Victory Fund. With their training & support, in 2010 I became the first LGBTQ candidate elected to public office in Howard County. I look forward to four more years representing our community & advocating for equality for all.”

The Victory Fund previously endorsed Byron in 2010 and 2014. He is the only openly LGBTQ candidate running for public office in Howard County in 2018.

Byron Macfarlane Files to Run for Re-Election as Register of Wills

“I’ve spent the past seven years reforming the office of Register of Wills, innovating to enhance and improve our service to the public, and advocating for everyday people who expect and deserve fairness and efficiency from their government. Working with my staff, community partners, and my colleagues across Maryland, we’ve made great progress. We’ve reduced our paper records by 90%, increased transparency by making probate records available online, and implemented hundreds of internal improvements that have made this office a model for how a public office should be managed.

This morning, I filed to run for re-election as Register of Wills for Howard County to build on the progress we’ve made and to continue to serve the people of this great county with professionalism and care.

I look forward to the journey ahead. I’m planning an aggressive campaign that will take us to every town and village in Howard County, and I’ll need your help. Stay tuned for more information in the coming days and weeks on how you can get involved.”

Byron Calls for Removal of Confederate Monument

The tragic events of this past weekend in Charlottesville and the steady rise of white supremacist sentiment in our country have sent shockwaves across America and the world. We are called to re-affirm our values and we are called to action.

In Howard County, we believe in the value of each and every person who calls this special place home. We value learning from one another, growing together, and being a part of a diverse, inclusive community. We value civility and treating one another with dignity and respect.

However, for 69 years, Howard County has maintained a monument to a cause that did not reflect our values. That cause was the Confederacy. It was a cause determined to dissolve the United States of America, affirm white supremacy, and perpetuate the enslavement of African Americans. In the words of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, “The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of humanity.”

This monument pays tribute, selectively, to only some who fought and suffered during the Civil War. It ignores the Union soldiers who fought and died and all those who suffered the horrors of slavery. It fails completely to tell the story of Howard County’s Civil War history. This monument is also a painful reminder of the backlash in the 1940s and 1950s against the beginnings of Civil Rights Movement, which led to the construction of monuments to the Confederacy in public spaces across our nation. These monuments were built to send a strong message to show, in Mayor Landrieu’s words, “who was still in charge.” And this monument does not sit on just any public land. Rather, it sits on the grounds of our county courthouse, a place that should be and must be a symbol for justice and equal protection of the law for all of our people.

The question for our community is whether continuing to provide such a prominent perch for this monument, which glorifies the Confederacy and ignores our full history, sends the right message about Howard County and our shared values. The answer to that question is no.

I urge the County Executive and County Council to remove this monument from the grounds of the courthouse. I further suggest that the monument be relocated to a more appropriate site, whether it be a private cemetery or a museum, like the Howard County Historical Society Museum beside the courthouse.

Let’s answer the call to re-affirm our values as the diverse, inclusive community we know and love. And let’s act.

(Click here for the first local news story on this issue, reported by Fox45).

Reform continues under Byron’s leadership; latest brings $250,000 in savings to Maryland families

Byron has made it his mission to undo an anachronistic rule that requires the Registers of Wills to send out notices by certified mail. Through research, he determined the total cost for these notices to Maryland families is approximately $250,000 per year. As most people know, a certified letter rarely brings good news and thus many of these notices are returned unclaimed, and the return of a certified letter postcard does not actually prove the intended recipient received the notice. Therefore, Byron worked with his colleagues, the Estates & Trusts Section of the Maryland Bar Association, and pursued this reform relentlessly for the past three years. He is pleased to announce that the Maryland Court of Appeals approved a change to the Maryland Rules which will allow the Registers to send all notices by first-class mail rather than certified. This will, again, bring about $250,000 in savings to Maryland families each year.

This is yet another example of common sense reform that Byron has made the hallmark of his tenure as Register of Wills. As a member of the County Council, the people of Howard County can expect the same steadfast stewardship of our local government, ensuring that it runs in a way that is cost effective, modern, and responsive to the community’s needs.