LGBT and Estate Planning (Part Two): Dying Without A Will in Maryland/DC – Assets That Are Not Probated

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In these two articles, the experienced DC and Maryland Estate Planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Stahl are encouraging members of the LGBT community to get their Wills and Estate Planning documents drafted and executed. As we noted at the end of Part One, there is no reason for anyone to die without a Will. The cost of Estate Planning documents is very affordable. Exercise YOUR right to make choices about what happens to your assets after death.

In Part One, we discussed some of the basics of the laws of Intestate Succession in Maryland and the District of Columbia. We discussed that, if you die in Maryland/DC without a Will, the laws of Intestate Succession will distribute your assets to your family. However, we noted that matters are legally complex. This is one reason for preparing two articles on this topic.

To have a better understanding of what happens if you die in MD/DC without a Will, it is important to consider what types of assets and possessions are “yours” when you die. How assets are legally titled makes a difference with respect to whether the assets remain “yours” when you die or whether those assets pass – through legal mechanisms – to a partner, family member, friend or other person. If they pass through those legal mechanisms, then those assets will not go into your probate estate and be distributed according to the laws of Intestate Succession.

The most common example of such an asset is something that is jointly owned. For example, consider a joint financial account. Assume that you have a same-sex partner and BOTH names are on the account. Both can deposit, transfer and withdraw funds to/from the account. Practically and legally, the financial account is jointly owned. Now, if one of the joint owners dies, then by operation of law, the asset becomes the sole property of the surviving owner (or owners). Thus, with our hypothetical financial account, if one partner dies, the other partner now owns the financial account entirely. This means that the asset will NOT be part of the deceased partner’s probate estate and will not be subject to the laws of Intestate Succession.

This is true for any jointly owned property like a house or a vacation home. However, with respect to real estate, there are special forms and language that must be used on the Deed to ensure that the real estate will pass to the joint owner upon death.

Aside from jointly owned property and assets, there are a number of other types of assets that will not be “yours” if you die in Maryland/DC without a Will. These will pass through operation of law to the person designated and will not be subject to the laws of Intestate Succession. These types of assets include:

  • Anything that the deceased person has placed into a Living Trust or other revocable Trust
  • Life insurance policy proceeds if there is a person named as a beneficiary – otherwise, the proceeds are “yours” and will go into your probate estate
  • Retirement accounts if a person is named as a beneficiary
  • Various types of specifically designated “transfer-on-death” accounts or assets – like stock certificates, other securities, etc.
  • And more

Maryland and DC Estate Planning Attorneys

For more information, contact the Maryland and DC estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the experience and expertise you need. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD and Washington, DC.

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