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What Happens If a Maryland Resident Dies Without a Will?


As another decade begins, your New Year’s resolutions become less and less like the ones you used to set in your youth.  Remember your resolution in 1999, when you resolved to brush your teeth every day, or your 2005 resolution to always get up before noon?  If you are old enough to read a law firm’s blog, then you are old enough that numerous people your age died from COVID-19 this year.  Even if you are healthy, still feel young, and only own modest assets, it is never too early to write a will.  If you do not write a will, your closest family members will still inherit your property, but writing a will, and even setting up some of your assets so that they do not need to go through probate will mean that your family can get their inheritance more quickly and with less expense.  To get started on your will and other aspects of your estate plan, contact a estate planning lawyer.

Probate and Non-Probate Assets

Probate is the process where the court reviews the estate of a recently deceased person, reads the decedent’s will and gives would-be heirs a chance to raise objections to it, invites creditors to collect debts from the estate, and finally distributes the remaining property to the beneficiaries listed in the will.  The estate is all the property the person owned at the time of his or her death, except for probate-exempt assets.  There are taxes and other costs associated with probate; the higher the value of the estate, the more it costs to settle it.  Therefore, people of considerable means make efforts to keep as much of their property as possible out of probate.  Ways to pass your property on to your heirs without probate include living trusts, transfer on death and payable on death accounts, and giving your family members money and other valuable assets while you are alive.

Intestate Succession

When a person dies intestate, it means that they did not write a will.  Contrary to what some fearmongering Internet rumors might tell you, the government does not assume ownership of all your property if you don’t leave a will.  Instead, the court follows the laws of intestate succession.  In Maryland, that means that if a married person who has children dies intestate, the surviving spouse gets the first $40,000 of the estate; beyond that, the spouse takes half the remaining amount and the children divide it equally among themselves.  If an unmarried, childless person dies intestate, his or her parents inherit the estate if they are still alive; if not, the decedent’s siblings inherit equal shares of it.

Let Us Help You Today

Estate planning is about generosity, not about death; getting started on your estate plan is a great way to give thanks that 2020 is over and another year and decade are beginning; a Washington DC estate planning lawyer can help.  Contact Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. for a consultation.



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