Many people put off putting an estate plan in place or even a simple will. They figure that they're too young, that they don't have enough assets to bother or that their family will take care of everything if you should pass away "intestate" -- without a will.
However, by not having a will, you give up the right to decide how you want your assets to be distributed. They go into a probate estate and are distributed according to the state's intestacy succession laws.
You also cause unnecessary expense and stress to your family, who will lose some of what they do inherit to probate fees. Even if you have no surviving family members, why let whatever you do have go to the State of Maryland when you let a favorite charity benefit?
Under Maryland's intestacy laws, there is a strict line of succession for surviving relatives based on their relationship to the deceased:
- If you are survived by a spouse, but have no descendants (children or grandchildren) and no surviving parents, your spouse will inherit the whole probate estate.
- If you have a surviving spouse as well as children and/or parents, your spouse will still get at least half of the estate, and the rest will be divided among the children and parents, with the children getting the larger portion.
- If there's no surviving spouse, but there are surviving parents and/or descendants, the estate is divided among them.
- If there's no surviving spouse, parents or descendants, the estate is divided among surviving siblings or their descendants if they're no longer living.
- If none of the above-referenced family members are alive, the estate is divided equally between relatives on the deceased's maternal and paternal side of the family (assuming there are relatives still living on both sides).
Of course, after your family has paid for probate and court costs, settled your debts and paid for your funeral, there may be little if anything left after they've dealt with the hassle of settling your estate. Therefore, it's wise to talk with a Maryland estate planning attorney who can help you get things in order so that your wishes can be carried out as you choose when you die and your family is spared additional burden while grieving.
Source: The Balance, "Dying Without a Will in Maryland," Julie Garber, accessed Aug. 17, 2017