What if a Beneficiary to a Will Dies Before Me in Maryland?

When administering your estate, it is crucial that your assets are distributed in accordance with wishes set forth in your will. However, if a beneficiary predeceases you, this process can become more complicated.

If a beneficiary named in your will dies before you in Maryland, the distribution of assets typically depends on the terms of your will. If your will includes contingent beneficiaries, the assets designated for the deceased beneficiary would pass to the contingent beneficiary as outlined in the will. However, if there are no contingent beneficiaries, Maryland’s laws of intestacy may come into play, and the assets may be distributed based on the state’s default rules, which may not align with your specific wishes.

Seek support and guidance from our experienced Maryland wills and estate planning lawyers by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.

How Contingent Beneficiaries Can Help if a Beneficiary to Your Will Dies Before You in Maryland

A contingent beneficiary can serve as a backup plan in the event a primary beneficiary named in your will predeceases you or is otherwise unable to inherit the assets at issue.

If a beneficiary named in your will passes away before you, the contingent beneficiary would step into the primary beneficiary’s place. The assets that were initially designated for the primary beneficiary would then be inherited by the contingent beneficiary, as specified by your will. This process ensures that your estate is distributed according to your intentions, even if unforeseen circumstances prevent the primary beneficiary from receiving their designated assets.

As an example, you may leave your whole estate to your wife or, if she predeceases you, to your children. In that situation, your children would serve as the contingent beneficiaries.

Our Baltimore wills and estate planning lawyers can help regularly review and update your will to reflect any changes in your circumstances or preferences. By ensuring that your will is up-to-date and includes contingent beneficiaries, you can have more control over how your estate is distributed.

Maryland’s Anti-Lapse Statute

Maryland’s anti-lapse statute is set forth by Md. Code, Est. & Trusts Art., § 4-403. It is designed to address situations where a beneficiary named in a will predeceases the testator.

According to this statute, if a beneficiary named in your will predeceases you and the will does not contain any specific language addressing the situation, then the deceased beneficiary’s share will generally pass to their descendants.

You do not have to include specific language in your will in order to activate this statute. It will automatically come into effect if a named beneficiary predeceases a testator and the will does not contain contradictory provisions or specific instructions regarding how to proceed.

Our legal team is prepared to answer any questions about how the anti-lapse statute may affect your specific situation.

What is the Process for Adding a Contingent Beneficiary to Your Will in Maryland?

Adding a contingent beneficiary to your will is a legal process that should be undertaken with care to ensure your intentions are clear and legally binding. Thankfully, our legal team can help navigate this process smoothly and ensure that you meet all the requirements set forth by the state of Maryland.

Review Your Current Will

Our legal professionals will start by reviewing your existing will to understand its provisions and beneficiaries. This will help us identify where you want to include a contingent beneficiary and for which assets. This step is essential to make informed decisions regarding amendments and contingent beneficiaries.

Update Your Will

We will then draft an amendment to your will, commonly referred to as a “codicil.” This document will specify changes that you wish to make such as the addition of a contingent beneficiary.

The codicil should be drafted in accordance with Maryland’s legal requirements for will amendments. Our team’s assistance can be beneficial when ensuring that the language and format of the codicil comply with state laws.

Naming the Contingent Beneficiary

In the codicil, you must clearly identify the contingent beneficiary’s full name, relationship to you, and the assets they would inherit in case the primary beneficiary cannot receive them. You must also provide clear instructions for the contingent beneficiary’s inheritance. This clarity is crucial to prevent any ambiguity or disputes regarding the distribution of your assets.

Signing and Witnessing

Wills and amendments require specific formalities. You, as the testator, will need to sign the codicil in the presence of witnesses. Maryland typically requires at least two witnesses who should also sign the document. Our attorneys can make sure that this process adheres to applicable regulations.

Keep the Document Safe

Once the codicil is properly executed, you must store it in a secure location alongside your original will. It is also essential that your executor and loved ones are aware of the changes you have made to your will and know where to locate it when the time comes.

Inform Your Beneficiaries

While not mandatory, it’s a good practice to inform your primary beneficiary and the contingent beneficiary about these changes to your will. This transparency can help prevent confusion or disputes later on. Sharing this information with your beneficiaries can also provide clarity about your intentions, promoting a relatively smooth distribution of assets.

Impact of Beneficiary’s Death Without Contingent Beneficiaries in Maryland

The absence of contingent beneficiaries in your will can lead to several problems and complications. For instance, any of the following issues may arise:

Uncertainty Can Arise Regarding the Distribution of Assets

Firstly, it can result in uncertainty regarding the distribution of your assets. Without clear instructions in your will, disagreements among surviving family members may occur. These disagreements can potentially result in costly legal disputes.

Delays in Asset Distribution Can Occur

Additionally, the absence of contingent beneficiaries can also lead to delays in the distribution of your estate. The legal process to resolve ambiguities and disputes can be time-consuming and may result in a protracted settlement of your affairs, causing unnecessary stress and financial strain for your surviving family members.

Call Our Attorneys for Help with Your Will in Maryland

Get support from our Columbia wills and estate planning attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by dialing (410) 694-7291.