- Posted by Justin K. Schwemmer
- On 2016-04-04
- 0 Comments
- estates, intestacy, intestacy laws, intestate, last will, last will and testament, maryland intestacy, maryland intestacy laws, wills, without a will
So what’s going to happen to your property without a will? “Intestate” is what you would call someone who dies without leaving a valid will. In Maryland, if you do not have a valid last will and testament when you die, your property, or estate, will be distributed accorded to the Maryland laws of intestacy. While these rules are generally fair, a court may have to appoint someone to administer the process, and pay their costs from the estate. Additionally, the intestacy rules do not usually reflect your wishes regarding the final distribution of your property.
“What will happen to my property if I don’t have a will?”
The following is general and may not include all circumstances or exceptions, and is contingent on current Maryland law. The specific facts of your situation might lead to a different analysis. For example, your debts may affect how much gets distributed to your family. A Maryland attorney familiar with the laws of estates and trusts can best assist you to change this default “will” and make sure your final wishes are carried out.
You may feel that having a will is not important at this point in your life. But unforeseen events happen all the time, and you could save your loved ones money, time, and headaches by setting a plan in motion now. It’s good practice to review your will every few years, and also after any major changes in your life, to make sure it still best reflects your wishes.
The Intestate’s Default Last Will and Testament
- If you have a surviving spouse and children, your property will be divided between them. Your spouse will receive $10,000 for her or his family allowance, and if you have no minor children, your spouse will receive $15,000. If you have minor children who are unmarried, they will each receive $5,000 as a family allowance, to be held by their guardians. The remainder will be split, half to your spouse, and half to your children. If you have a spouse that survives you, but no children or their descendants, then the second half will go to your parents. If you have no surviving spouse, all of your estate will go to your children and their descendants, or having none, to your parents and their issue (your siblings, nieces and nephews, half-siblings, and possibly step-siblings). If none of these relatives survive you, then it goes to your grandparents and their issue (your aunts and uncles, close cousins), and if still none survive, then to your great-grandparents and their issue (your more distant cousins). Only if these rules fail to identify surviving relatives, then the court will look to any stepchildren you may have. If still no takers, then your entire estate “escheats” to the state, going either to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, or to a county board of education.
- The court will appoint someone to be your personal representative to handle the administration of your estate. This will probably be your spouse or an adult child, if any of these survive you. They may be required to post bond.
- If your spouse remarries, his or her next spouse may be entitled to one-third or one-half of all of your spouse’s property, including whatever you left to your spouse.
- The court will choose a guardian for your children, and it could be anyone who petitions the court. If the child is fourteen, he or she may choose his or her own guardian.
- Your surviving spouse will be appointed guardian of the property of your surviving minor children, but if a child’s share exceeds $10,000, your spouse may have to give an annual accounting of how and why he or she spent that money for the child, which may be reviewed by the child. Your spouse may also have to post bond for this role.
- Your children will have unfettered access to their shares upon reaching eighteen years of age. You will not have a say in how they may use their shares.
- No more than $15,000 may be spent from your estate on your funeral and burial without special approval by the court.
- You will not be able to take advantage of possible ways to reduce the tax burden on your estate, so the government will likely get the maximum possible share of your estate that it can receive.