What happens if I die without a will in Maryland?
If you die without a will, you die “intestate” and default rules, called intestacy laws, decide who will inherit your property. Maryland’s intestacy laws are decided by the Maryland legislature as a “one-size-fits-all” approach to inheritance. They do not reflect your personal preferences or circumstances. Maryland’s intestacy laws in particular may not be a good fit for you. For example, in Maryland, if you die without a will and leave behind a spouse and minor children, your spouse gets half of your property and your children share the remaining half. Most couples would want that their spouse receives all of their property if they made a plan. Step-children generally receive nothing under the intestacy laws. Maryland law has different default rules depending on whether there is a living spouse, children, siblings, parents and so on. Check out this information guide provided by the Maryland Office of the Register of Wills for more information.
Where is your office?
Montefusco Estate Planning is run out of the Frederick home office of estate planning attorney Peter Montefusco. If you need to schedule an appointment or meet with an attorney, Peter will visit you at your home in Frederick or other location convenient to you.
Is there a “death tax” in Maryland?
Maryland is one of only two states that imposes both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. Depending on your circumstance and with careful planning, it is possible neither will apply to you.
Only assets above a certain amount called the exemption amount are taxed. Currently the exemption amount for the Maryland estate tax is $1 million, but that is expected to rise soon. The amount above the exemption amount is graduated and caps at 16%. For information about the recent change to the Maryland estate tax law, click here.
Maryland’s inheritance tax is a separate tax that applies to property left to certain beneficiaries. However, it only applies to a niece, nephew, friend or partner of the deceased. It does not apply to property left to a spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, stepchild or stepparent, or sibling. Although both these taxes may apply, any estate tax owed is reduced by the inheritance tax paid, so there is no “double tax.”
Additionally there is a federal estate tax. The federal estate tax exemption is $5.34 million per person in 2014, so most people won’t need to worry about it. The tax rate over exemption is very high, however, currently at 40%.
Estate tax law changes very frequently, often from year to year. Please consult with an estate planning attorney or tax specialist to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.
When should I get a new will?
A will never expires and a well-drafted will should endure changing circumstances. However, some changes are unforeseen and sometimes preferences change. You should personally review your will once a year to make sure it reflects your current situation and preferences. Pick a date that you will remember, like when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time, for example, or ask your attorney to send a reminder. You should ask an attorney to review your will every 3 – 5 years to make sure it is up to date with current law. Many attorneys will offer this service for free. Other estate planning documents, like your Advance Directive and Power of attorney, should be reviewed when you review your will.
Can I make a will myself?
Yes, but it’s not recommended. Anyone can write a will for themselves and it will be valid as long as it follows the legal requirements. However, many people who write their own wills don’t know the legal requirements and make mistakes. Using a website or fill-in-the-blanks form to make your own will is dangerous too. It’s easy to make mistakes and not know it. Additionally, these one-size-fits-all forms won’t reflect your personal circumstances and wishes. The worst part is that you may never discover that you made a mistake or missed an important opportunity. Some lawyers actually like these do-it-yourself options because they end up creating more work for the legal profession when there are mistakes. The bottom line is that one of the most important and immediate benefits of proper estate planning is peace of mind. Why worry about making a mistake yourself? Get an estate planning attorney you trust.