What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

When a resident of Maryland dies without making a Last Will and Testament, the rules of intestacy succession specified in the Maryland Code Chapter of Estates & Trusts will dictate who inherits the probate property of the deceased person. An intestate estate occurs when there was no Will from the deceased. Even if the person did not have a Will, heirs may need an estate to distribute property. Since there is no Will, however, Maryland’s intestacy laws dictate who can inherit property from the estate and in what amounts. In other words, when you die without a Will, Maryland laws dictate how your property will be distributed.

Someone, generally a member of the family, must apply to serve as the estate’s Personal Representative. Upon appointment of the Personal Representative, he or she must notify the estate’s heirs and creditors. The Personal Representative has the same duties and obligations irrespective of whether the individual had a will on death.

However, to determine how the property of the decedent should be distributed and who receives the property, the Personal Representative must review intestate laws. Below is a summary of the legislation on the succession of Maryland intestacy in different circumstances.

If the Deceased Person Is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants and/or Parents

This is what will occur under the Maryland intestacy legislation if a spouse and/or descendants (kids, grandchildren, grandchildren, etc.) and/or relatives survive the deceased person:

  • Survived by a spouse and one or more minor children – One-half (1/2) of the probate estate will be inherited by the surviving spouse and one-half (1/2) of the probate estate will be inherited by the children of the deceased.
  • Survived by a spouse and one or more children, none of whom are minors – The surviving spouse will inherit the first $15,000 of the probate estate and the balance will be distributed half (1/2) to the surviving spouse and half (1/2) to the children of the deceased person.
  • Survived by a spouse and children or parents – The surviving spouse will inherit the entire probate estate of the deceased spouse.
  • Survived by a spouse and parent or parents and no children – The surviving spouse shall inherit the first $15,000 of the probate estate and the balance shall be distributed one-half (1/2) to the surviving spouse and one-fourth (1/4) to each parent if both live or one-half (1/2) to the only surviving parent.
  • Survived by offspring and no spouse – The offspring of the deceased person will inherit the whole probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a parent and no spouse or offspring – The parents of the deceased will inherit the probate estate in equal shares if both are alive or the entire probate estate goes to the only surviving parent.

If the Deceased Person Is NOT Survived by a Spouse, Descendants, or Parents 

This is what will occur under the Maryland intestacy legislation if the deceased individual is not survived by a wife, any offspring (kids, grandchildren, grandchildren, etc.) or their relatives:

  • Survived by brothers and/or sisters or offspring of deceased brothers and/or sisters – Brothers and/or sisters of the deceased and/or offspring of deceased brothers and/or sisters (nieces and nephews) will inherit the entire probate estate, by stirpes.
  • Not survived by brothers, sisters or offspring of brothers or sisters – The probate estate is split so that half (1/2) goes to the paternal family of the deceased and the other half (1/2) goes to the maternal community of the deceased; given that there are no survivors on the paternal side of the family or no survivors on the maternal side of the family.
  • Not survived by any family members – In the unlikely situation that no family members will survive the deceased as outlined above, the entire probate property will escheat to Maryland State.

Contact a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney

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. Let the Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill take the burden of legal matters off of your shoulders. Contact us today and set up a free consultation.

Written by Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill

Jack R. Sturgill, the Owner and CEO of Jack’s Law, has practiced civil litigation for over 40 years. As an experienced litigator and real estate, estate planning, and estate administration law attorney in Maryland, he focuses his practice on legal matters pertaining to real estate, land use, eminent domain and condemnation, business and corporate law, estate planning, estate administration, personal injury, and administrative law.