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2019 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – new laws of interest

Several new laws pertinent to estates and trusts were passed during the 2019 Maryland General Assembly legislative session.  The following are summaries of the most significant.

Surviving Spouse’s Elective Share:  Maryland law has long included statutory provisions designed to protect a surviving spouse from disinheritance.  But a combination of modern probate avoidance techniques, shrewd attempts to avoid these spousal protections, and case law aimed at stifling avoidance techniques led to unintended consequences and uncertainty regarding application of the law.  The new legislation seeks to provide for greater certainty and for judicial discretion to correct unintended or unjust results.  We plan to offer more details about this law in a future updated.  This law is effective for estates of decedents dying after October 1, 2020.

Surviving Spouse’s Intestate Share:  When an individual dies without a Will in Maryland, his or her estate is distributed in accordance with Maryland’s intestacy laws.  If the decedent was married but had no descendants, current law directs that the surviving spouse must share with the decedent’s surviving parent(s).  The new law makes the surviving spouse the sole heir in such a situation. This law is effective for estates of decedents dying after October 1, 2019.

Remote and Electronic Notaries:  This new law permits certain notarial acts when the notary public is not in the signer’s physical presence.  This is of particular interest to our home-bound, distant, and extremely busy clients who cannot conveniently come to our office to execute their instruments. The most significant obstacle to off-site execution is often coordinating a notary public for the power of attorney, which is required under Maryland law.  The new law could permit a notary in our office to remotely notarize these documents.  We will investigate the practicality and application of this new law in our practice.  This law is effective for notarial acts after October 1, 2020.