Laws of Intestacy in Bethesda
Laws of intestacy are a default set of laws that guide the administration of an estate for a decedent who died without a last will and testament. In this way, intestacy laws in Bethesda are meant to act as default instructions for the distribution of the assets of an estate. Generally, the laws of intestacy describe who has the priority to serve on behalf of the estate and who is entitled to inherit from the estate. They are an important part of estate administration in Bethesda, and if someone needs help determining how the laws of intestacy fit into their administration of estates and assets, a skilled Bethesda attorney will be able to help.
If an individual dies without a last will and testament, and is survived by children but not a spouse, their assets generally will be distributed equally among all of their children. If the decedent has a surviving spouse but no children, their spouse would likely be entitled to the entirety of the estate.
However, intestacy in Bethesda becomes more complicated when the decedent is survived by both children and a spouse, or by a parent. For example, if a decedent has a surviving spouse, a living parent, and children, the parent may not be entitled to inherit any of the estate, however, if a decedent has a surviving spouse, a living parent, but no children, the parent may be entitled to inherit a portion.
Step Children and Adopted Children
It is important to note that step children are not provided for in the laws of intestacy in Bethesda, unless the decedent does not have any biological relatives. That is, unless a decedent does not have any eligible heirs to the fifth degree of relatedness, their step children will not be eligible to inherit assets from their estate under the laws of intestacy. An individual with step children must have a last will and testament in order to designate such children as beneficiaries of their estate.
Despite this, Maryland law states that adopted children are treated the same as the children that are biologically related to a decedent under the laws of intestacy in Bethesda. However, in order to be eligible to inherit from the decedent, the child must have been legally adopted by the decedent. An adopted child who was legally adopted by only one parent, though parented by two individuals as a couple, may thus not be eligible to inherit from their non-adoptive parent as there is no formalized legal relationship between the two.
Moreover, a child born outside of wedlock, commonly referred to as an “illegitimate child,” does, in many cases, have the right to inherit from an estate of their biological parent under the laws of intestacy, so long as a biological relationship can be proven.
If a decedent in Bethesda has neither living heirs to the fifth degree nor step-children, their assets may pass to the state of Maryland. However, all reasonable and proper attempts to identify and locate eligible heirs must be made before assets may pass in such a manner.
Finally, it is important to note that the Bethesda laws of intestacy do not take into account the relationship between the decedent and their heirs. That is, even if a decedent had a very close relationship with an individual, this individual may not be eligible to inherit assets under the laws of intestacy. Under such circumstances, there is little that can be done to alter the distribution of the estate assets in any one individual’s favor.
Division of Assets
When an individual dies, his or her assets pass four ways:
- By beneficiary designation, such as with pensions or life insurance.
- By ownership, such as with joint accounts.
- By trust agreement, such as with assets that have been pre-funded into a trust.
- By probate estates, such as with assets in the decedent’s sole name without a designated beneficiary or joint owner.
While all assets are included in the valuation of an estate for estate tax purposes, not all assets are included in the probate process. Generally, only those assets in the decedent’s sole name without a designated beneficiary or joint owner are included in the probate process and, in turn, subject to laws of intestacy.
The Personal Representative of an estate involving children may wish to work with an intestacy lawyer, or an estate and trust attorney. Such an attorney can be integral in creating an asset distribution plan. They can help to identify all eligible heirs and to determine the rights of all involved children.
This is important especially because the decedent does not have a last will and testament. The legal rights of the children are dependent upon the laws of intestacy, which are complicated and burdensome to someone not familiar with the probate process. Thus, an experienced attorney can help to ensure that an estate is administered in a proper and efficient manner, saving the Personal Representative time and effort.