When someone passes away without a will or trust, many of their assets will go through probate before the state distributes the remainder to that person’s heirs. In rare cases when the state of Maryland can’t find a decedent’s heirs, the state will inherit the remaining assets. If you don’t have a will when you pass away, your heirs will inherit your estate according to intestate succession.
Assets That Bypass Probate
Probate is the court procedure through which the court uses an estate’s assets to pay a decedent’s final expenses, taxes, bills, and debts before heirs inherit according to a will document. Even with a will, beneficiaries of a small estate may not receive their full inheritance if the court dispensed some assets in probate.
Some assets legally bypass probate, including:
- Property held in a trust
- Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary
- Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
- Property owned with another person by joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety
- Property held in a transfer on death account
- Bank accounts or other accounts that are payable on death
- Real estate with a transfer-on-death deed
- Vehicles with a transfer-on-death registration
After probate, the court-appointed estate administrator can disburse the remaining assets. An experienced probate attorney can help your family navigate the complex steps of probate and asset distribution.
Intestate Succession in Maryland
Dying intestate means “without a will.” Depending on the family members left behind, a decedent’s entire estate may go to one person, or the estate administrator may divide the assets between multiple heirs. In Maryland, intestate succession includes these principles:
- If no surviving parents or spouse exist, descendants inherit everything
- If no surviving parents or descendants exist, the spouse inherits everything
- The spouse inherits half of any intestate property, while minor children divide the remaining assets
- The spouse inherits $40,000 plus half of the remaining estate, while adult descendants divide the remaining half
- Parents inherit the entire estate if no spouse or descendants exist
- Siblings inherit the entire estate if no spouse, descendants, or parents exist
Additional Intestate Succession Rules
If you don’t have a will, your family members will also need to adhere to additional laws about intestate inheritance.
Intestate heirs must outlive a decedent by 30 days. Other laws dictate the ability of heirs to inherit based on half-sibling status, posthumous birth of descendants, immigration status, gifting property to relatives before death, and omission from intestate inheritance for committing certain crimes against the decedent.
Contact Our Estate Planning Attorneys in Southern Maryland
If you live in Maryland and don’t have a will, contact us at The Law Office of Ralph W. Powers Jr., PC. We have decades of experience helping clients develop estate plans, including power of attorney, trusts, wills, and advance directives. Call us today at 301-627-1000 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.