Wills and Estates in Maryland.
Do you need a will?
Everyone has heard the threat that
the State will seize your property if you die without a will. This is urban
legend, except in the rare case in which an individual dies without any family
(that is, no one is alive who has descended from any of the person's
great-grandparents). If you die in Maryland without a will, the laws of
intestacy determine how your property is distributed. These laws track how many,
if not most, people, choose to allocate their assets upon death.
the spouse of a person dying intestate will be entitled to anywhere from $15,000
plus one-half of the remainder to the entire estate, depending upon whether the
deceased left surviving parents or children. A person dying without children or
a spouse will leave his or her estate to his parents or, if they are deceased,
to his or her siblings or their descendants.
will can be important to vary the law's presumption of where and how you want
your assets to be distributed. A will can and should specify the personal
representative, the person who administers the estate; the person or persons to
be named as guardians of minor children if both parents die; the trustees of any
trusts formed for the benefit of minor children, a surviving spouse, or other
purposes. In addition to the persons responsible for organizing the financial
and familial aspects, the will can specify the persons or charities entitled to
share in the person's assets.
with large estates often need wills and other documents to plan the most
advantageous manner in which to distribute wealth while legally minimizing the
taxes payable upon death. While the federal estate tax is being phased out, as
it stands, only persons dying in 2010 will be free of federal estate tax. It is
obviously better to plan with an eye to some tax consequences.
A good estate plan
often includes a durable power of attorney, giving a trusted person the right to
manage your financial and perhaps health care decisions in the event that you
become disabled. In addition, an advance directive instructs your family members
and health care providers about the level of maintenance you wish to have in the
event of a catastrophic illness affecting your ability to breathe or maintain
What about taxes?
inheritance tax was repealed on gifts to most family members. This applies
to Maryland residents who die on or after July 1, 2000. The inheritance
tax of .9% applied to property transferred to grandparents, spouses (with some
exemptions), parents, children and other descendants, and 8% to siblings
(collateral relatives). The inheritance tax applied to estates of all sizes, and
sometimes prevented a bequest of specific property to be upheld, if the estate
had insufficient cash to pay the inheritance tax.
Congress passed legislation to repeal the federal estate tax,
which now applies to estates valued at more than $1,500,000 for persons dying in
2004 or 2005. The estate tax is repealed entirely in 2010. The legislation
expires, however, in 2011, which would reinstate the estate tax at the
$1,000,000 level. Congress is considering the permanent abolition of the estate
tax. Nothing is permanent in legislation, however, without a constitutional