Planning for the end of life is a task many people prefer to postpone. Yet, without a valid will, the state of Maryland will determine the distribution of your assets upon your death.
This process, known as intestate succession, follows a set of laws that may not reflect your wishes.
Understanding intestate succession
When you die without a will in Maryland, your property will pass through intestate succession to your closest relatives. First in line are your surviving spouse and children. If you do not have a surviving spouse or children, your assets will go to your grandchildren, parents or siblings, in that order. If you die with no surviving close relatives, your assets will end up with more distant relatives, such as cousins, aunts or uncles.
Knowing what property it will affect
It is important to note that only probate property – assets that you own alone without a named beneficiary – goes through intestate succession. Non-probate property, such as life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and property held in joint tenancy, will pass directly to the named beneficiary or surviving co-owner, regardless of whether you have a will.
Considering the importance of a will
While intestate succession laws serve a necessary purpose, they often do not reflect the nuanced wishes of the deceased. A will allows you to express your preferences clearly, ensuring your assets go to the people or organizations you choose. A will can also provide for the care of any minor children, a critical consideration for parents.