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What Happens If You Die Without a Will Towson, MD
Understanding the Consequences of Dying Intestate
Life is filled with uncertainties, but there are some aspects we can plan for to provide peace of mind for ourselves and our loved ones. Estate planning, particularly the creation of a will, is one such critical aspect. However, not everyone has the opportunity to create a will, and many individuals may find themselves facing the question: “What happens if you die without a will in Towson, MD?”
The consequences of passing away without a will, often referred to as dying “intestate,” can be both legally complex and emotionally challenging. At The Grafton Firm, our Maryland estate planning attorneys are here to help you navigate the complexities of dying intestate. We have extensive experience in estate planning and probate law, and we’re dedicated to ensuring that your wishes are honored and your loved ones are protected.
Whether you’re seeking guidance on creating a will or need assistance in the absence of one, we’re here to provide you with the legal assistance you need. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you draft a will that protects your assets and ensures your loved ones are taken care of.
What is a Will?
A will, formally known as a “last will,” is a legal document that serves as a fundamental component of estate planning. It outlines an individual’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and the handling of their affairs after their death. A well-drafted will not only specifies who should inherit what, but also designates guardians for minor children, and appoints an executor to manage the estate.
Failing to create a will or having an outdated one can lead to complications, delays, and disputes during the estate settlement process. To create a legally sound will that reflects your wishes and meets the requirements of your jurisdiction, it is advisable to consult with our Towson MD estate planning lawyer who can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions about your estate.
What is Intestate Succession?
Intestacy succession is a legal framework that comes into play when a person passes away without leaving a valid will or other legally recognized estate planning documents. It outlines the default rules for the distribution of the deceased person’s assets and property among their heirs.
Intestate succession is often seen as a last resort, as it may not align with an individual’s actual wishes for the distribution of their assets. The specific rules and procedures for intestate succession may vary from one jurisdiction to another, as they are typically governed by state laws. Our Towson MD estate planning lawyer can help you understand the laws in determining who inherits a deceased person’s assets without the presence of a will.
Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession?
If you die without making a will, the court will distribute your property according to the state’s intestacy laws. Who gets what depends on who your closest relatives are. The most likely recipients are your spouse, your children, your parents, or your siblings.
In Maryland, the assets that pass by intestate succession include those owned solely by the deceased person at the time of their death, without any valid will or other estate planning documents that specify their distribution. Our Towson estate planning attorney can help you determine which assets typically pass by intestate succession in Maryland:
Personal possessions, including vehicles, furniture, jewelry, and other belongings owned solely by the deceased, are subject to intestate succession. These items will be distributed according to Maryland’s laws.
Bank Accounts and Investments
Bank accounts held solely in the name of the deceased individual without designated beneficiaries are subject to intestate succession. In addition, stocks, bonds, and other investment accounts held solely in the name of the decedent without designated beneficiaries will also be subject to intestate succession.
Real estate owned solely by the decedent, such as land or a house, will be subject to intestate succession. If there is no surviving spouse or descendants, it will typically pass to the decedent’s parents, siblings, or more distant relatives.
Other Financial Assets
Various financial assets owned solely by the deceased, such as savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), and brokerage accounts, pass by intestate succession.
Furthermore, assets that have designated beneficiaries or are held jointly with the right of survivorship are generally not subject to intestate succession. These assets pass directly to the named beneficiaries or surviving joint owners, bypassing the probate process. Such assets may include:
- life insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary
- the property you’ve transferred to a living trust
- securities held in a transfer-on-death account
- funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account with a named beneficiary
- real estate for which you have a transfer on the death deed
- payable-on-death bank accounts
- vehicles for which you have a transfer on death registration
What is the Spouse’s Share in Maryland Intestate Succession Laws?
Maryland’s intestate succession laws prioritize certain family members, and the surviving spouse holds a central position in the hierarchy of inheritance. When a person dies intestate in Maryland, the size of the spouse’s share depends on various factors, including whether the decedent had any surviving descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), the existence of other surviving family members, and the value of the estate. Here’s an overview of how the spouse’s share is determined under Maryland’s intestacy laws:
Surviving Spouse and Descendants
If the decedent is survived by both a spouse and descendants, the surviving spouse typically inherits the first $15,000 of the estate, plus one-half of the remaining balance. The other half of the remaining balance is distributed among the descendants.
Surviving Spouse and No Descendants
If the deceased person is survived by a spouse but has no surviving descendants, the surviving spouse is entitled to inherit the entire estate. This means that the spouse inherits the entirety of the assets.
Surviving Spouse and Other Family Members
If the decedent is survived by a spouse, descendants, and other family members, the surviving spouse is still entitled to the first $15,000 of the estate and one-half of the remaining balance. The other half of the remaining balance may be distributed among the surviving family members, depending on their relationship to the deceased.
What is the Child’s Share in Maryland Intestate Succession Laws?
When a person dies intestate in Maryland and leaves surviving children or descendants, the children have specific rights to inherit a portion of the estate. Our Towson estate planning attorney can help you know how the children’s share is determined under the state’s intestacy laws:
- Grandchildren: A grandchild will receive a share only if that grandchild’s parent is not alive to receive his or her share.
- Children Born Outside of Marriage: If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they will receive a share of your estate if:
- You married the mother after their birth and acknowledged your paternity
- You acknowledged paternity in writing
- You openly recognized them as your children
- A court has determined paternity
- Foster Children and Stepchildren: Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share. However, if you leave no blood relatives, the next group in line to inherit from you is your stepchildren.
- Adopted Children: Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
- Posthumous Children: Children conceived by you but not born before your death will usually receive a share. There is an exception for children conceived by artificial insemination, who will receive a share only if:
- You consented in writing to the use of your genetic material for posthumous conception
- You consented in writing to be the parent
- The child is born within two years after your death
- Children Placed for Adoption: Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share. However, if your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won’t affect their intestate inheritance.
Call Our Towson MD Estate Planning Attorneys Now!
Dying without a will comes with complexities in the lives of your loved ones during an already difficult time. By creating a well-rounded estate plan, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your specific wishes and that your family’s future is secure. The peace of mind that comes from knowing your affairs are in order is a gift not only to yourself but to those you leave behind.
Whether you’re contemplating your own estate planning or assisting a family member with theirs, seeking guidance from our Towson estate planning attorneys at The Grafton Firm can make all the difference. We have extensive experience in assisting individuals and families who are dealing with the complexities of intestacy, which is when someone passes away without a will. Our estate planning law firm can help you understand your inheritance rights and guide you through the probate process.
Contact us now to schedule a free consultation and let us help you obtain the peace of mind that comes with proper estate planning. We can also help you handle bankruptcy and civil litigation cases in Maryland.