The Importance of Leaving a Will

Did you know that two-thirds of Americans die without leaving a will?

These people, however, share some very prestigious company. The following famous individuals died without leaving a plan for the distribution of their estate: Howard Hughes, Pablo Picasso, former President Andrew Johnson, and even the Great Planner himself, Abraham Lincoln.

At this point you’re probably questioning why you even need a will in the first place. Most people think that when they die their spouse or children will simply inherit all of their possessions. If only life (or death) were that simple.

Leaving a will is more about protecting your family than it is about your death. The benefits to preparing a will are numerous. First, and most significant, is the ability to control the distribution of your assets following your death. Often wills make the distribution of estates quicker and cheaper by avoiding unnecessary attorney’s fees and probate taxes. You may also provide for guardians for your children and even suggest instructions for their upbringing. Wills can help to streamline the estate settlement process, protect your estate from an estranged spouse, and establish trusts, which provide financial support for your family. Are you still not convinced? Read on to see what the State of Maryland proposes to do with your possessions should you die without a will.

The annotated Code of Maryland generally provides that the estate of individuals who die without a will (intestate) will be subject to the following distributions:

  • Should you or your spouse die without a will and you have children under the age of 18, including adopted children, any residuary estate (that which is left over after burial, probate taxes, administrative expenses, etc.) will be divided in half, with the surviving spouse receiving one half and the other half going to the surviving child or children.
  • Should you or your spouse die without a will and you have children over the age of 18, the first $15,000 of the residuary estate will pass to the surviving spouse and the remainder will be divided into halves, with one-half passing to the surviving Spouse and the other half passing to the child or children.
  • If you are married without any children and die without a will, your spouse will receive the first $15,000 of the residuary estate plus one half of the remaining estate with your parent(s) receiving the other half. If no parents survive you, then your entire estate passes to your surviving spouse.
  • If you are a widow or widower with children or grandchildren, all of your remaining estate will pass to your children or grandchildren. If there are no children or grandchildren, the residuary estate will pass to your parents to be divided equally.

Possessions such as the family home, land, personal property (including cars and furnishings), and even bank accounts may be subject to these intestacy provisions. Also, with the dawn of a new “investment age”, it is becoming increasingly more common for individuals to have money saved or invested through savings plans, stock options, etc.. It is essential that these individuals provide for the distribution of their investments.

Dying without a will is considered the biggest estate-planning mistake. To avoid the arbitrary distribution described above, all individuals should consider drafting and maintaining an updated will.

Contact Our MarylandEstate Planning Attorney toDiscussYour Will

If you have questions about drafting a will, ContactThe Law Offices of Fredric G. Antenberg at (410) 730-4404 to schedule you FREE Consultation.

READ OUR LEGAL ARTICLE How to Prepare for a Meeting with an Attorney to Draft a Will for more details to think about.