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Not having a will leaves family members vulnerable

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | Estate Planning

People tend to procrastinate about estate planning. For people in Maryland, this can be problematic for many reasons regardless of their financial situation. Business owners, professionals and blue-collar workers alike should understand the value of having a basic estate plan not just to ensure their property goes where they want it to go, but to protect their loved ones.

It is important to know what can happen if a person – known as the testator – dies without a will. Known as dying intestate, a person’s property is at the mercy of state laws if they do not take the necessary step of writing a will. This could mean that certain properties go to people the testator might not want to have them. Being aware of what happens when there is no will can be a catalyst to write a will and state how property is to be distributed.

Know how property is divided without a will

When writing a will, the testator generally has a clear vision as to how their property will be split. In some cases, the bulk of it will go to the spouse. Without a will, that is not necessarily so. The spouse and minor children will share the estate with each getting half. When there are adult children, the spouse will receive $40,000 and half the estate. The adult children will equally share whatever is left.

If there are children and no spouse, they will divide the entire estate. Without children, the spouse and testator’s parents will share the proceeds of the estate, but the duration of the marriage will determine how much each will get. If the marriage lasted for more than five years, the spouse gets the whole estate. For marriages of fewer than five years, the spouse gets $40,000 and half the remainder of the estate. The parents divide the rest.

If there was no spouse and no children, the parents get the entire estate. When there are brothers and sisters and no parents, spouse or children, they will equally divide the estate. Those with no living heirs will have their estate either go to the Maryland Medical Assistance Program if they were getting long-term care from the state or the Board of Education in their home county.

Creating an estate plan is a protective device

As this shows, not having a will leaves a person’s estate at the mercy of the law. This could lead to their property not being distributed as they would have wanted and stoke dispute between heirs. No matter a person’s financial circumstances, they must clearly define their goals and know the value of an estate plan.