Creating a will is incredibly important in Maryland. Common questions we get are, what happens if you die without a will? What are intestate succession laws in Maryland? What are the inheritance laws?
First, be sure to check out our in-depth article on the probate process.
Second, please note: the following article is specific to the law here in Maryland, covering probate law and common scenarios if a person dies without a will in place. Dying without a will makes the decedent subject to Maryland intestate succession laws.
Be sure to check out our video of estate planning attorney Frank Gray as he walks you through intestate success laws and what happens if there is no will in place.
If You Die Intestate (without a will) – What Happens Next?
When someone dies, the process of probate begins.
In Maryland, when you die without a will, that’s called dying intestate. This means the deceased person’s estate will have to follow the government’s estate plan for you, the laws of intestacy fills in the blanks for who gets what from the estate.
Though it might not be exactly what your family wants, you may be stuck with it – this is why creating a will and doing proper estate planning is so important.
If you’d like more information on registering a will, read our article on the Maryland Register of Wills Forms.
Dying Without a Will in Maryland: Terms to Remember
First, it’s important to remember that in the probate process, assets are separated into two categories:
- Probate assets (which will be subject to the state’s probate process)
- Non-probate assets, which will not go through probate
Maryland Intestate Succession: Laws Governing Inheritance When a Will Does Not Exist
Where your probate property goes after all valid debts are paid is dependent on:
- Who is alive?
- Who are your heirs?
- Who are your descendants?
If you need a refresher on the difference between probate property and non-probate property, watch our detailed video below by attorney Frank Gray.
Maryland Intestate Succession Scenarios: Examples of Who Inherits the Estate
Intestate succession simply means who will inherit property and assets, the order of who the state will give an inheritance to if no will exists. Let’s do a few common example scenarios using Maryland intestacy law to show who would inherit an estate if a person died without a will.
Remember: we commonly refer to the deceased person as the decedent.
Scenario #1: Decedent Has Children But No Spouse
If you die with children but no spouse, your children would inherit the entire estate in equal shares.
If there are three children, each would get a one-third share. If there are five children, each get a one-fifth share.
Scenario #2: Decedent Has a Spouse and No Other Descendants
If you died with a spouse but no other descendants or parents, your spouse would inherit the entire estate.
Scenario #3: Decedent Has a Spouse and Minor Children
This inheritance scenario is a bit more complicated under Maryland intestacy law. If the decedent and his or her a spouse have children who are minors, it means they’re under the age of 18. In that case, the spouse would inherit half and the minor children would inherit the other half, in equal shares.
Scenario #4: Decedent Has Both a Spouse and Grown Children
Next is a spouse and descendants, but no children who are minors (meaning there are children, but they are adults). The spouse would inherit the first $40,000 and one half of the rest. The descendants, in equal shares, would inherit the other half that’s left.
Scenario #5: Dying with a Spouse and Parents
In this intestate scenario, the decedent has a spouse and parents who are still alive, but no descendants. What’s unique here is that the length of marriage plays a central role in in the inheritance.
If Married Less Than 5 Years
The spouse again receives the first $40,000 and one half of the rest, split equally with the parents.
If Married More Than 5 Years
The spouse would inherit the entire estate and the parents would receive nothing.
Scenario #6: Dying with Parents and No Spouse
If the decedent passes away with no spouse and no descendants, but has parents who are still alive, they would inherit the entire estate in equal shares.
Scenario #7: Dying with Siblings and No Spouse or Children
In this case, the decedent does not have a spouse or children, and no living descendants, but does have siblings. Here in Maryland, the siblings, in equal shares, would inherit the entire estate.
Need More Advice on Maryland Intestate Succession Laws, Probate or Estate Planning?
Be sure to read our detailed article on the entire probate process here.
At Chesapeake Wills & Trusts, we’re here to help you protect your family, assets and life savings.
As Maryland estate planning attorneys, we are passionate about educating our clients so they can make the right decisions to secure a safe, happy, financially stable future.
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And, be sure to download a free copy of An Introduction to Settling an Estate Through Probate written by Maryland estate planning attorneys Greg Jimeno and Frank Gray