Death is not a comfortable subject for most to talk about, but when it comes to making plans for your assets after you pass away, talking about it is a necessity! Specifically, you should be aware of what a Will is and what happens in Maryland if you die without a will.
Let’s answer some questions to make this subject more easily understood:
What is a Will?
Also known as a ‘Last Will and Testament’, a Will is a legal document which states your wishes regarding the distribution of your personal finances and property after your death. A Will also appoints a guardian for minor children and names a Personal Representative to carry out the duties of probate. This document needs to be written, and properly witnessed in order to be valid.
What if I die without a Will in Maryland?
The state’s explanation of what happens when you die without a Will can be found in Title 3 of Maryland’s Estates and Trusts Code. If you have not drawn up a Will previous to your death, you are known to the state as being “intestate”. Maryland’s law of intestacy applies to both people who pass away without a will as well as those whose Wills do not meet the proper standards of a valid Maryland Will.
Here are a few things to know about the distribution of your finances and property if you die without a will in Maryland:
- Only in rare cases, when you die without any living heirs, do your assets pass to the state.
- If you have no living spouse at the time of your death, your assets are given to your children in equal shares. If those children are minors, the money goes to a trustee for their benefit until they turn 18.
- If your spouse is living at the time of your death and you have living minor children, half of your assets go to your spouse and the other half goes in trust for your children.
- If your spouse is living at the time of your death and you have living adult children, your spouse gets the first $15,000 of your assets and half of the remainder, and your children receive what is left.
- If your spouse is living, as well as your parents, at the time of your death, your spouse gets the first $15,000 and half of the remainder, and your parents receive what is left.
Having a validly written and executed Will is very important if you have specific wishes for how you would like your assets divided when you pass away. Even if one of the above scenarios is what you would like to happen anyway, not having a valid Will means that you lose the opportunity to pick who will be Personal Representative, to direct how and when your beneficiaries receive their share, and to reduce or eliminate taxes and probate costs. It also means that your heirs may have to endure additional expenses and work to settle your estate. Working with a Maryland estate lawyer will help ensure that your Will is properly prepared and that your wishes will be carried our in the event of your death.
For more information on wills, estate planning, and related legal matters in Maryland, contact D. Kathleen Rus of DK Rus Law. Kathleen is a Maryland estate lawyer with years of experience with wills and trusts. Contact her today to schedule a free consultation.