Maryland Intestacy Laws: Property Distribution Without a Will

Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s property after the person dies. Many people engage in estate planning to ensure that their wishes will be carried out after the death. Estate planning also protects a person’s property and helps provide for their family members after their death. An estate plan can also provide for incapacitation to avoid guardianship and conservatorship. The Parkville estate planning attorneys of Pinder Plotkin help individuals engage in meaningful and beneficial estate planning. We also represent Personal Representatives to assist in the administration of estates. Sadly, some Personal Representatives must deal with the additional issues that arise when a person dies without a will. To avoid costly and time-consuming problems that can make it difficult to finalize your affairs after your death, contact our office to discuss drafting a will and estate plan with one of our Parkville estate planning attorneys. What is an Intestate Estate? An intestate estate is a probate estate in which the decedent did not have a will. Even though the person did not have a will, an estate may be necessary to distribute property to heirs. However, because there is not a will, the intestacy laws of Maryland dictate who can inherit property from the estate and in what amounts. In other words, if you do not have a will when you die, Maryland laws dictate how your property will be distributed. Someone, usually a family member, must petition to serve as the Personal Representative for the estate. Once the Personal Representative is appointed, he or she must notify heirs and creditors of the estate. The Personal Representative has the same duties and responsibilities regardless of whether the person had a will when he or she died. However, the Personal Representative must review intestate laws to determine how the decedent’s property should be distributed and who receives the property. Maryland’s Intestate Laws for Distributing Property to Heirs Intestate laws can be confusing and difficult to navigate, especially when there are multiple generations of heirs who survived the decedent. In general, Maryland’s intestate laws provide for the following priority for distribution of estate assets:
  • Surviving Spouse with No Living Children or Parents — The surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.
  • Surviving Children with No Surviving Spouse — The surviving children inherit the entire estate.
  • Surviving Spouse and Children Who Are Under 18 Years of Age — The surviving spouse inherits one-half of the estate, and the other one-half of the estate is distributed to the child equally.
  • Surviving Spouse and Children or Descendants Who are Not Under 18 Years of Age — The surviving spouse receives a spousal share of $40,000 and one-half of the remaining estate. The child and other descendants receive the remaining one-half of the estate.
  • No Surviving Spouse, Children, or other Descendants — The parents would receive the entire estate if living. If the parents are deceased, the descendant’s siblings inherit the estate. In a case in which the parents are deceased, and there are no living siblings, the estate may be divided between the descendant’s grandparents or other relatives.
  • No Surviving Family Members — The descendant’s property is transferred to the State of Maryland.
You Can Avoid the State Deciding Who Inherits Your Property Working with a Parkville estate planning attorney to develop a comprehensive estate plan can keep the state from dictating who receives your property after your death. In addition, if you want to leave money to a charity or friend, you must have a will.  Charities and friends are not considered heirs under intestate laws. Therefore, regardless of what you might have said during your lifetime, if you do not write down your wishes in a will, those wishes will not be carried out after your death. In addition to a will, you should also consider drafting and executing other estate documents that can help you avoid probate by distributing property directly to the heirs, reduce or eliminate estate taxes, and protect property from creditors. Some of the estate planning documents we discuss with our clients during an estate planning session include:
  • Trust Agreements
  • Durable General Power of Attorney
  • Beneficiary Designations
  • Medical Authorizations
  • Healthcare Power of Attorneys
  • Living Wills
Your financial situation and your goals dictate the types of estate planning documents you need. However, it is important for everyone to have a will and estate plan, regardless of your financial situation, marital status, or family situation. At the minimum, a will keeps the state from dictating what happens after you die. A will also makes the process easier for your loved ones. Contact a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney for Help If you have questions about wills or other estate planning documents, contact Pinder Plotkin LLC to schedule a free consultation with a Maryland estate planning attorney. Contact our office by telephone at 410-525-5337.   The information provided in this website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. The information contained in this blog is also subject to change and should not be relied upon. Contact the Pinder Plotkin Legal Team for a FREE consultation.
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