For a myriad of reasons, many people in Maryland pass away without having created a will, trust or other document dictating how to distribute their assets upon their death. Perhaps the deceased simply did not wish to contemplate his or her ultimate demise or perhaps he or she died suddenly, perhaps due to a car accident or a heart attack, before being able to execute an estate plan. In these situations, the deceased's property will be passed down to his or her heirs via the laws of intestate succession.
Intestate succession is simply the name for the laws under which the state will distribute the deceased's property if the deceased died without an estate plan. The distribution of the deceased's property is dependent upon which of the deceased's relations are still alive at the time of death.
For example, let's say that the deceased is survived by a child who is under the age of 18 and a spouse. In this situation, the deceased's minor child will be granted 50 percent of the probate assets and the deceased's surviving spouse will be granted the other 50 percent of the probate assets.
In another example, imagine that the deceased is survived by a spouse and two adult children. In this situation, the deceased's surviving spouse will be granted $15,000 from the estate, along with 50 percent of the remainder of the probate assets, whereas the deceased's surviving adult children will split the remainder of the probate assets.
If the deceased is survived by his or her children, but not by his or her spouse, the deceased's children will split the entirety of the probate assets. There are further laws regarding when the deceased has no surviving spouse, children or parents, but is survived by other relatives, such as siblings, nephews and nieces. If there are no surviving relatives, then the deceased's probate assets will go to the Board of Education in the jurisdiction of the administration of the deceased's estate.
These laws only apply if the deceased dies without a will, trust or other estate planning documents dictating how to distribute his or her property. To avoid having the distribution of one's estate assets be determined by intestate succession, a person should waste no time in creating a will or trust.