As the year comes to an end, it is a good idea for Maryland residents to either go over their estate plan or take the time to create one if they don’t have it. When someone dies in Maryland without a will, intestacy laws kick in. This means their estate is distributed according to state laws, without taking into account a person’s individual relationships and preferences.
If the deceased person is survived by a spouse and one or more minor children, then the spouse gets half the estate and the children will receive the other half. Of course, this happens after the estate goes through probate.
When the surviving children are adults, then the spouse inherits $15,000 of the estate after it goes through probate and, of the remaining, half is distributed to the spouse and the other half to the children.
When the decedent is survived by a spouse but no children or parents, then the spouse gets everything. If only a spouse and parents survive, then the spouse gets the first $15,000, then half of the balance and the remaining half is distributed equally among parents. Other scenarios are possible depending on who survives the decedent.
As one imagine, there are various problems with these situations. If one is separated, their spouse still gets everything. Additionally, not many may want minor children to inherit half of an estate without some form of guidance or without a trustworthy guardian. It is also possible the court appoints a guardian that is not the surviving spouse. A carefully thought-out estate plan can cover the above possibilities and many other ones as well. Discussing one’s estate planning objectives with an experienced attorney can be the first step in creating a thorough estate plan.