Separate Couples & Estate Planning: Protecting your Family’s Future

ByKayla Weddle, Lindsay Parvis November 28th, 2023

The law is ever-evolving. October 1, 2023 changes to Maryland’s intestacy laws have significant consequences for separated, but not yet divorced, spouses who don’t have a Last Will & Testament. If you don’t have a Will, read on about why you need one.

Intestacy laws dictate how an estate is distributed when a person passes away without a valid Will. This is especially important for separated, but not yet divorced spouses who don’t have a Last Will & Testament. This blog underscores the importance of having a valid Will and the consequences of failing to do so.

The Old Law: A Split Between Spouse and Heirs

Under the previous intestacy law, the estate was divided in a way that aimed to strike a balance between the surviving spouse and heirs, whether minor children, adult children, or surviving parents if no children. In most instances, the surviving spouse receive $40,000 plus half of the remainder, while the other half would be allocated to the heirs. This approach recognized the importance of both the spouse and children or surviving parents in the decedent's life.

The New Law: More for the Surviving Spouse

In an important departure from the old law, the new grants the surviving spouse 100% of the estate when 1) all surviving children in common are adults; or, 2) when the couple had no children and the deceased had surviving parents. Additionally, the $40,000 surviving spouse share increased to $100,000 when there are surviving adult children of the decedent who are not also the children of the surviving spouse. These changes prioritize the surviving spouse's financial well-being in such circumstances.

Implications of the Change

These changes raise the stakes for individuals who are separated (but not yet divorced) from their spouse and have no estate plan. Especially when there are adult children or no children and surviving parents. It is now more critical to have a valid estate plan in place during a couple’s separation.

Why Avoid Intestacy

Intestacy laws may not align with an individual's wishes or their family's best interests. To avoid intestacy, it is imperative to draft a Will and estate plan that outlines how you want your assets distributed. Here are a few key reasons to avoid intestacy:

1. Control and Clarity: Having a Will allows individuals to have a say over how their estate is distributed. It offers clarity and peace of mind about having their wishes followed.

2. Protecting Family Dynamics: By creating a Will, clients can address specific family dynamics and ensure that their assets are divided in a way that best suits their unique situation.

3. Reducing Stress and Disputes: Intestacy can lead to disputes and confusion among family members, adding unnecessary stress during an already difficult time. An estate plan can help prevent these conflicts.

4. Ensuring Financial Security: Creating a Will is a responsible step to ensure that loved ones are financially secure after an individual's passing. This is especially vital when there are adult children involved.

In conclusion, the recent changes to intestacy law emphasize the importance of having a valid Will, particularly for those who are separated from their spouse and have adult children. Don't leave your legacy to chance; take control with a well-drafted Will and estate plan.

By:  Kayla Weddle, assisted by Lindsay Parvis

Kayla Weddle

As a recent law school graduate with a deep passion for family law, Kayla Weddle is determined to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our clients. Her journey in the legal field has been marked by dedication and a commitment to justice.

Lindsay Parvis

Client-focused legal representation starts with listening.  I listen to my clients’ needs, goals, and priorities.  From there, I educate my clients about the law and process to empower them with information and knowledge. This is especially important because my clients often feel unheard and powerless when facing a situation that feels out of control.

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