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Equal Treatment for All Howard County Residents Assured Under Byron’s Leadership

“When I became Register of Wills, I was determined to re-shape the culture of my office to align with my values as a lifelong Howard Countian and as a progressive Democrat. The culture in every workplace is shaped by its leadership and the vision and policies they implement. I made my vision clear: to ensure that every husband, wife, son, daughter, partner, relative, and friend who calls my office or comes through our door is treated with dignity and respect.

A few weeks into my term, I observed one of my staff members talking with a woman whose husband had just passed away. The woman was told that we could not open an estate for her husband. I asked to speak with my staff member privately. I asked why she wasn’t able to help the woman at her desk. She told me that she couldn’t open an estate because the woman’s husband was not a United States citizen, rather he was a citizen of Hungary. Now, the only legal requirement for us to open an estate for someone who has passed away is that they were domiciled here, meaning they simply lived here. After speaking with several of my staff members, all of whom I inherited from my Republican predecessor, I discovered that it was standing office policy to refuse to open estates for Howard County residents who were not U.S. citizens. I was stunned. I asked the staff to show me where in Maryland law this prohibition or rule existed. They search through books and notes to find something to justify this policy only to come up empty-handed. It was clear to me that this policy, whether born out of ignorance or prejudice, was simply invented out of thin air by my predecessor and had been dutifully followed by the staff for many years. I instructed my employee to open the estate for the woman at her desk and allow her to move forward with seeing to her husband’s affairs. While I was relieved I was able to intervene and see that this grieving widow received the help she needed, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many Howard County families had been turned away over the years. We’ll never know how many people were left to fend for themselves because my predecessor simply made up an ignorant and prejudiced rule without any regard for the impact it would have on people’s lives. However, I ended this unconscionable policy and as long as I’m Register will ensure that in my office, every Howard County resident, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, is treated equally under the law.

This was one of the first of nearly 200 office policies and procedures I have changed since taking office. I share it as an example of why the right leadership and the right values matter in this role. I hope in the years ahead to continue to foster a culture of service and equality to everyone my office serves.”

Byron Celebrates Earth Day by Promoting 90% Reduction in Paper Records

Managing and storing voluminous paper records is time-consuming and expensive. That’s why I brought together my fellow Registers, legislators in Annapolis, and our state archivists to change how we store our paper files. For many years, it’s been our practice to scan and image all papers filed in our office. Since we have these reliable, high-resolution digital records, we decided to eliminate the need to keep paper records indefinitely, and now eventually dispose of them (except for testamentary documents like Wills and Codicils). After several years of hard work, this paper reduction initiative has reduced our permanent paper records by 90%. Changing “how it’s always been done” is never easy so I’m proud we were able to adopt a more modern approach to record-keeping and save taxpayers dollars at the same time.

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.”