When someone dies, and an estate is required, there are two distinct possibilities for what dictates the disposition of assets in the estate. If the decedent has a valid will, that will controls how the estate is handled. However, if someone dies without a will, there are a default set of rules that control how an estate is handled. This process is called Intestacy.
In some situations, minor children and spouses are entitled to a portion of an intestate estate before the rest is divided. These are respectively called the spousal share and children’s share.
Without a will, assets go to what the State of Maryland assumes are the people you would be likely to leave your estate to. It is very unlikely that the decedent’s assets will pass to the State of Maryland. The Maryland Register of Wills details that order as follows, based on the relatives living at the time of the decedent’s death:
- Spouse and minor children of the decedent- spouse receives one-half, children share remaining one-half
- Spouse and children (all adult) of the decedent-spouse receives $15,000 plus one-half of remaining estate-children divide balance (the interest of a predeceased child passes to issue of that child)
- Children only of the decedent-children (does not include step-children) divide entire estate (the interest of a predeceased child passes to issue of that child)
- Spouse and parents of the decedent- spouse receives $15,000 plus one-half of remaining estate-both parents divide balance or surviving parent takes balance
- Spouse of the decedent without other heirs listed above-spouse receives entire estate
- Parents of the decedent without other heirs listed above-both parents divide entire estate or surviving parent takes all
- Brothers/sisters of the decedent without heirs listed above-brothers and sisters divide estate equally (share of deceased sibling goes to their issue-nieces and nephews of the decedent)
- Grandparents without other heirs listed above-grandparents divide entire estate or, if deceased, to their issue (see applicable law for details)
- Great-grandparent without other heirs listed above-great-grandparents divide entire estate or, if deceased, to their issue (see applicable law for details)
- Step-children-if there are no heirs listed above
- No living heirs or step-children-If decedent was a recipient of long-term care benefits under the Maryland Medical Assistance Program at time of death, the net estate is paid to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Otherwise, the net estate is paid to the Board of Education.
In an intestate estate, it is important to make certain that a Personal Representative is properly appointed to handle the probate process. Furthermore, all assets have to be properly researched, valued, and accounted for. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you in making sure an intestate estate is done in accordance with Maryland law with minimal headaches.
Furthermore, intestate succession is never certain until a party dies. If the uncertainty of intestacy is not appealing, then you should make every effort to have a will prepared that does reflect your testamentary wishes.
If you need help administering an intestate estate or you wish to draft a will to avoid intestacy, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444, or to see what others have said about us, please read our client testimonials.