Many people think that if you die without a Will then all of your assets will go to the State of Maryland, but that rarely happens. When someone dies without a will, also known as dying intestate, there are many possibilities that arise.
The first thing to determine is whether or not the assets are subject to probate. The assets that pass through probate are assets that are solely in the decedent’s name, or assets that do not have a beneficiary designated. Assets that are jointly owned, or assets with beneficiaries, do not go through probate and are not controlled by the laws of intestacy.
Assets that need to go through probate will have an executor appointed in the county where the decedent last resided. In Maryland an executor is known as the Personal Representative and is appointed by the Register of Wills. At that point the administrative process of settling the estate begins. Upon the completion of the administration process, the estate will be distributed to the heirs of the decedent according to the laws of intestacy.
In the State of Maryland, if you die with:
- Children, but no spouse, the children inherit everything.
- Spouse but no descendants or parents, the spouse inherits everything.
- Spouse and children who are minors, the spouse inherits ½ of your intestate property. The children inherit everything else.
- Spouse and descendants, but no children who are minors, the spouse inherits $15,000 worth of your intestate property, plus ½ of the balance. The descendants inherit everything else.
- Spouse and parents, but no descendants, the spouse inherits $15,000 worth of your intestate property, plus ½ of the balance. The parents inherit everything else.
- Parents but no spouse or descendants, the parents inherit everything.
- Siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, the siblings inherit everything.
If you die without a will and don’t have any family, your property will revert (escheat) to the State. However, this rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you.
A qualified estate planning attorney can assist you in establishing an estate plan that ensures your estate will be distributed to whom you want, when you want and handled by the person you want.
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