What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Maryland?

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When a Maryland resident dies without having made a ​last will and testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the Estates & Trusts Chapter of the Maryland Code will dictate who inherits the deceased person's probate estate. Below is a summary of the Maryland intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Survived by Spouse, Descendants, or Parents

Here is what will happen under the Maryland intestacy laws if the deceased person is survived by a spouse, descendants, and/or parents:

  • Survived by a spouse and one or more minor children: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-half of the probate estate, and the deceased person's children will inherit the remaining one-half of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and one or more children, none of whom are minors: The surviving spouse will inherit the first $40,000 plus one-half of the probate estate. The deceased person's children divide the remaining estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and no descendants or parents: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit the deceased spouse's entire probate estate.
  • Survived by a spouse and parent(s) and no descendants: The surviving spouse will inherit the first $40,000 plus one-half of the probate estate, if they were married less than five years. Then, both parents divide the remaining balance, or the surviving parent takes the balance.
    If the spouse was married to the deceased person for more than five years, the spouse inherits the entire estate.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse: In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a parent or parents and no spouse or descendants: The deceased person's parents will inherit the probate estate in equal shares if both are living, or the entire probate estate will go to the only surviving parent.

Adopted children are treated the same as biological children under intestacy law. Property may only be distributed to stepchildren if there are no blood relatives.

Deceased Not Survived by a Spouse, Descendants, or Parents

Here is what will happen under the Maryland intestacy laws if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse, descendants, or his or her parents:

  • Survived by siblings or descendants of deceased siblings: In this case, the deceased person's brothers and/or sisters and the descendants of deceased brothers and/or sisters (nieces and nephews) will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Not survived by any family members: In the unlikely circumstance that the deceased person is not survived by any family members as described above, then the entire probate estate will go to the State of Maryland.

Inheriting From a Maryland Intestate Estate

Even if you determine that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may not inherit anything. Your relative may have only left non-probate property, or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate, which would make the estate insolvent.

If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in Maryland, then consult with a Maryland probate attorney to be sure.