What If I Die Without a Will in Maryland?
Updated: Jul 20
Coming to terms with your mortality, making important decisions about who will speak for your healthcare wishes should you yourself become unable to, and determining what becomes of your assets upon your death are never easy topics to contemplate. Though many people overcome whatever reluctance they have and create some sort of estate plan, in 2016 a survey revealed 63% of Americans currently had no last will and testament. Here is an overview of intestacy in Maryland – the process where the state’s laws determine who inherits property from a person who died intestate (without a will).
Who Inherits Property Under Maryland Intestacy Law?
Depending on the decedent’s surviving family members at the time of their death, a number of different inheritance scenarios can play out under Maryland intestacy law. Some common situations include:
If a decedent has children but doesn’t have a spouse – children (including adopted children but not stepchildren or foster children) inherit everything.
If a spouse exists but no children or living parents – the spouse gets it all.
If a spouse and minor children under 18 – the spouse inherits half the intestate property and children inherit the rest of the estate.
If a spouse and descendants exist but none of the children are minors – the spouse receives the first $40,000 of the intestate property and half of the rest of the estate, and the descendants receive everything the spouse did not.
If both a spouse and living parents exist but there were no descendants – the spouse inherits everything if the marriage lasted at least 5 years. If not, the spouse gets the first $40,000 of intestate property and half the rest, and the decedent’s parents inherit the remainder.
If parents exist but no spouse or descendants – the parents inherit it all.
If the decedent had no spouse, parents, or children, but has siblings – they inherit everything.
Perhaps most alarmingly, if there is no will and the decedent has no family, the property goes to the estate – in this case Maryland’s Department of Health of the Board of Education in the decedent’s county of domicile.
What If A Will is Held to be Invalid After Decedent’s Death?
Even if someone dies with a will in Maryland, anyone who would have inherited the decedent’s property through intestacy are eligible to receive notice of distributions and any other estate activity so they have a chance to deal with objections or worries. This could mean, for example, contesting a fraudulent or invalid will.
If the will is found to be invalid and no valid wills exist to replace it, the appointed personal representative must then distribute the decedent’s assets as directed by the state’s intestacy law as outlined above. Depending on the size of the estate, sometimes the personal representative may not even be permitted to receive compensation for the work they perform.
Speak to a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney Today
Creating a will is not only helpful for ensuring your wishes are carried out, it gives you a measure of control over preventing the State of Maryland from potentially ending up as the beneficiary of your estate under intestacy law.
To maintain control and designate how you want your hard-earned assets handed down after death, schedule a consultation with our office and let's get started. We are here to help you devise the best estate plan that honors your wishes and create those documents on your behalf.