The Probate Process in Maryland: What if Someone Dies Without a Will?
This is part 4 of our series on the probate process in Maryland, brought to you by the Gormley Law Office, a full-service probate law firm in Kensington, Maryland. We represent clients across Maryland and in Washington, DC. Whether you need a simple will, or a full estate plan, our experienced attorneys can help! Call us today at 1.240.514.2358.
If you missed any of our previous posts, you can use our Index to this series to see anything you missed, or skip ahead in the series. In our last post, we talked about wills and the probate process, why it’s important to have a will, and what types of property go through probate.
In this post, we’re talking about what happens if someone dies in Maryland without a will. You may remember from our post on terminology that probate assets are assets that are assets owned by the person who died or as tenants in common.
However, for many people, having a will is enough when it comes to their estate planning. If you don’t have a lot of assets, a will may be sufficient. But what if someone dies without a will? That is called “dying intestate” and means a person died without a will.
Under Maryland law, if there is no will, the intestate laws of the State of Maryland, (which are subject to change – that’s why it’s important to consult with a probate attorney in Maryland!), will determine the distribution of probate assets.
Distribution is determined by the relationship of the surviving heirs of the decedent. If a spouse and minor child/children survive, the spouse receives only one-half of the probate assets and the child/children receive the other one-half.
If there are no surviving minor children but other surviving children or parents, the spouse receives the first $40,000.00 plus one-half of the balance of the estate. The remainder passes to the decedent’s children, if any, otherwise to his or her parents.
If a spouse but no children or parents survive, the spouse receives the entire probate estate.
If children but no spouse survive, the children will receive everything. If no relatives (brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.) survive, the assets will be distributed to the Board of Education in the jurisdiction where the estate was administered.
So, based on the laws, you can also see why so many people plan ahead through estate planning. And, if you have a large estate and no relatives, the entire estate would be distributed to the Board of Education in the county where you died, which is not something most people would normally prefer. However, the law has to provide for these situations, because they happen often enough that they need a way to distribute the assets of an estate.
Hopefully we have convinced you why you need an estate plan in Maryland! Call us today to discuss getting started on your estate plan or will at 1.240.514.2358.