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What Happens When Someone Passes Away Without a Will?

  • 11 Jun 2020

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Estate Planning AttorneyWhen a loved one passes away, a variety of legal issues and disputes can arise – even if the deceased has carefully detailed estate planning documents, such as a will or advance directives. However, managing a loved one’s estate can become much more complicated if that person has died without a will. Even if you do not have property with a particularly high market value, it is still essential to have a will if you want to have control over how your property will be distributed upon your death. Drafting a will is important for everyone, no matter what your age or income level might be. When someone passes without a will, that person’s assets will be passed according to law of intestate succession. Each state has its own intestacy laws, and when a person dies in Maryland without a will, their assets will be distributed according to Maryland’s intestate succession laws. However, not all assets will be passed according to intestate succession laws. We will tell you more about how the process works.

What Are Intestate Succession Laws?

Intestate succession laws specify who inherits the deceased’s assets when there is no will. The following are the ways intestate succession works in Maryland:
  • When a person dies with a spouse but no descendants or parents, the spouse will inherit everything;
  • When a person dies with children but no spouse, the children will inherit everything;
  • When there are surviving parents but no spouse or children, the parents will inherit everything;
  • When there is a surviving spouse and minor children, the spouse will inherit 50 percent and the children will inherit the rest;
  • When there is a surviving spouse and adult children, the spouse will inherit $15,000 plus an additional 50 percent of the remaining assets, and the children will inherit the rest;
  • When there is a surviving spouse and surviving parents but no children, the spouse will inherit $15,000 plus an additional 50 percent of the remaining assets, and the parents will inherit the rest; and
  • When there are surviving siblings but no spouse, children, or parents, the siblings will inherit everything.

Assets That Are Not Passed Through a Will and Are Not Subject to Intestate Succession Laws

When a person dies without a will, many assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. At the same time, it is important to know there are certain types of property that are not passed through a will (even when a person has one), and as such, these kinds of assets are not distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. Examples of property that will not be subject to intestacy laws include, but are not limited to:
  • Retirement account benefits;
  • Life insurance benefits;
  • Certain securities;
  • Property owned in Maryland through joint tenancy, including tenancy by the entirety; and
  • Assets in a trust.
In general, any assets a person holds where beneficiaries are listed, such as retirement benefits or a life insurance policy, are not assets that pass through a will. Other types of assets, including some of those we have listed above, are also ones that do not pass through a will. Accordingly, even if a person dies without a will, but has certain assets with named beneficiaries, for example, those beneficiaries will not change due to Maryland’s laws of intestate succession.

Contact a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney

It is extremely important to have a will to ensure your wishes are met. When a loved one passes away and does not have a will, you should also know that an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney can assist you and your family. Contact the Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado today for more information about how we can help with your wills and estate planning needs.

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