On October 1, 2023, a new Maryland law went into effect regulating how couples may register as Domestic Partners and the information required in a Domestic Partnership Agreement. Senate Bill 792 (SB 792) extends significant protections and benefits to qualifying Domestic Partners navigating the complexities of dying without a Will.

Before October 1, Domestic Partners were essentially considered legal strangers, with no entitlement to inherit from their deceased partners unless explicitly named in a Will. The law now empowers surviving partners of registered Domestic Partnerships with rights equivalent to those of spouses in intestate estates.

The expanded rights for Domestic Partners include the ability to inherit a portion or the entirety of the decedent’s assets. Furthermore, they can now qualify for the family allowance, a benefit previously reserved solely for surviving spouses. Another significant change is the priority of appointment to serve as the Personal Representative for their partner’s estate, granting them rights they were previously denied.

However, like any legal transformation, there are exceptions. While surviving spouses in Maryland have the option to claim up to half of the net estate if dissatisfied with their share under the deceased spouse’s will, registered Domestic Partners do not enjoy the same privilege.

The most significant benefit of the new law however comes in the form of Inheritance Tax exemption. Maryland’s Inheritance Tax, a 10-11% levy on inherited assets, historically had numerous exemptions, but Domestic Partners were not among them. Until the enactment of SB 792, Domestic Partners were only granted a limited exemption on the Inheritance Tax for a jointly owned primary residence.

The new law, however, brings about a major change. Surviving partners in registered Domestic Partnerships are now fully exempt from all Inheritance Taxes. 

Although a Domestic Partnership Agreement is beneficial to a surviving partner, the Agreement does not replace the need or benefit of Estate Planning documents. Your Advance Medical Directive and Financial Power of Attorney will allow someone else, your Agent, to speak on your behalf, avoiding Guardianship proceedings in time of a crisis. A Will allows you to specifically identify who will receive your assets when you are gone, who will handle your Estate, and who should act as Guardians of your children if they are minors when you pass away. A Revocable Living Trust has the additional benefit of helping your family and beneficiaries avoid the Probate process which can take a year or longer to complete and is costly. 

If you need help protecting your money and loved ones in the event of death or disability, call us at 301-696-0567 or self-schedule online at lenaclarklegal.com.

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