Some Maryland spouses may be shocked to discover that their husband or wife excluded them from their will. However, state law protects spouses from being disinherited by one another through the will, and the elective share allows the surviving spouse to receive a fixed portion of the estate left behind by the deceased spouse. The purpose of the elective share is to ensure that someone cannot leave their spouse penniless, especially in their senior years. There are different considerations to keep in mind when planning one’s estate, especially for blended families.
The augmented estate and the elective share
The elective share in Maryland is calculated on the basis of the deceased spouse’s augmented estate. For estate administration purposes, some assets pass through the probate process and are distributed according to the will. However, other types of non-probate assets can constitute a significant part of a person’s property. Jointly owned property, joint bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts and property held in trust all pass outside the probate process. The augmented estate includes both probate and non-probate assets.
Maryland elective share specifics
A spouse is entitled to one-third of the deceased spouse’s augmented estate if the decedent has surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. If only the spouse survives, with no offspring, the surviving spouse is entitled to one-half of the estate. Surviving spouses must choose to take their elective share in writing and filed with the court, within nine months after the death or six months after a personal representative was appointed for the estate.
The use of the augmented estate means both that the spouse may access a broader range of assets but also that spouses may provide for each other with real estate and beneficiary declarations in retirement and investment funds, while willing property to their children.