LGBT and Estate Planning (Part One): Dying Without A Will in Maryland/DC: Some Basics on The Laws Of Intestate Succession

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At one time, having top-tier Estate Planning documents was crucial for Maryland and DC gay and lesbian married couples. Before same-sex marriage was legalized, a Last Will And Testament and other Estate Planning documents served as a legal mechanism to achieve similar practical and legal results as opposite couples have by operation of the U.S. marriage laws. Even though same-sex marriage became legal because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015), it is STILL crucial for same sex couples to plan in advance for an untimely passing.

As for non-married LGBT individuals who might be in a committed relationship, Estate Planning is essential to ensure that your possessions are distributed to the persons YOU want to have your assets. Otherwise, your assets might end up with family members like parents and siblings.

In this article, we discuss what happens if a gay or lesbian person dies without a Will. Legally, the matter is complicated and we’ll offer two articles on this topic. In this part one, we’ll discuss the laws of Intestate Succession. In Part Two, we’ll discuss what is considered your “possessions” at the time of your death. For a more detailed Maryland/DC Estate Planning consultation, call the experienced DC and Maryland Estate Planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. Call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD and Washington, DC.

If a person dies without a Will, the assets and possessions of that person – called the decedent – are distributed according to a Maryland or District of Columbia statute. That is, preparing a Will gives YOU the power of choice; otherwise, the probate courts and the laws decide who gets your possession. These statutes are generally called the laws of Intestate Succession.

The Maryland/DC laws of Intestate Succession are complicated and are intended to distribute your possessions to some member or members of your family. Under the laws of Intestate Succession, none of your assets will be distributed to political, social or not-for-profit organizations. In this article, we will offer only a simplified explanation. In both jurisdictions, the heirs-by-law are grouped in “tiers.” At the top are spouses, then children, then parents, then siblings, etc. So, in Maryland and the District of Columbia, if you die without a Will, your assets are distributed to:

  • Your surviving spouse receive – one-half in Maryland (plus $15,000 if there are no surviving minor children) and two-thirds in DC
  • Your surviving children or grandchildren – one-half in MD; one-third in DC

The laws in DC are a bit more complicated since those laws take into account whether the children are yours or the children of your spouse from a different relationship. But, again, in this article we are keeping it simple.

If you had no spouse, then your surviving children or grandchildren will receive your possessions. If you had no spouse or children, then your assets will go to your parents, and if no parents, then to your siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.

Honestly, there is no reason for members of the LGBT community to die without a Will. The cost of simple Estate Planning documents is very affordable and gives YOU the choice of what happens to your assets after death.

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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