Estate Planning for Nontraditional Families in Maryland: Securing Your Loved Ones’ Future

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Firm News

Nontraditional families, which encompass a wide array of configurations such as blended families, same-sex couples, cohabiting partners, and families formed through adoption or assisted reproduction, are increasingly common in today’s society. This blog discusses how the law relates to nontraditional family members in estate planning and what you need to do to secure your family’s future.

Adopted Children and Step Children

Adopted children, by statute, are treated the same as biological children. There aren’t any unique circumstances with regard to distribution of assets to an adopted child. If your Last Will and Testament defines the work child to include step-children, then your step-children are also treated the same as biological children.

Same Gender Partners

Same gender partners may marry in Maryland. Same sex married couples are treated no differently than opposite gender married couples. If same gender or opposite gender couples decide not to marry, then they may register their relationship as Qualified Domestic Partners. If they are so registered, even if they die without a Last Will and Testament, the survivor will be treated, for inheritance purposes, the same as a legally married spouse.

Qualified Domestic Partners

If unmarried partners register as Qualified Domestic Partners, even if they die without a Last Will and Testament, the survivor will be treated, for inheritance purposes, the same as a legally married spouse. Couples who wish to register as domestic partners must prepare a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” to be filed with the Register of Wills in the jurisdiction in which they reside. The Register may require proof of identification to verify each partner’s name, age, and home address are accurate. The Declaration must also be signed by a Notary Public and the partners must pay a $25 filing fee to the Register of Wills.

Appointing Guardians for Minor Children

If you have children under the age of 18, a Last Will and Testament should name the legal guardian or guardians in the event of the parents’ death. With this appointment, parents can ensure that their children are cared for by individuals they trust and who understand their unique family situation. This can provide significant peace of mind, knowing that children will be raised in a manner consistent with the parents’ values and lifestyle. 

Clarifying End-of-Life Wishes

Nontraditional families may face hurdles in making medical and end-of-life decisions, if one partner is not recognized as “next of kin,” for that purpose, appointing the life partner as the agent is vital. A comprehensive estate plan, including an Advance Medical Directive and Appointment of Health Care Agent, can outline who has the power to make medical decisions. This can help alleviate stress and conflict for loved ones during difficult times.

Minimizing Legal Disputes

Without clear legal documentation, there is a risk of disputes among surviving relatives. Estate planning, including a Last Will and Testament, helps to minimize ambiguities and reduce the likelihood of costly and emotionally draining legal battles over the estate. By clearly stating one’s wishes, individuals can provide guidance and clarity, which helps maintain family harmony and ensures that their legacy is honored as intended.


A Last Will and Testament is not just a legal document—it’s a vital instrument to safeguard loved ones and uphold one’s wishes. The team at Simpson Law understands the unique needs and dynamics of  different family structures. The team’s expertise and compassion helps their clients transition their property and assets to loved ones and their favorite charities using strategies that reduce or eliminate estate tax liability and costly, lengthy probate proceedings. This gives families comfort and closure without unnecessary financial burdens.