The laws of intestacy in Maryland are a set of default rules that are used when a decedent dies without a last will and testament, or the provisions for the last will and testament are deemed to be invalid. The laws are available, but they are not often the best expression of what the decedent’s wishes may have been had an original last will and testament been executed prior to death.
The laws of intestacy do provide for who has the priority to serve as a personal representative, and how the estate assets will be administered. In some cases, the heirs may not have been the same individuals that the personal representative may have named in his or her last will and testament had a will been created. To avoid this outcome, it is pertinent to visit a Maryland probate attorney as soon as you can to discuss your last will and testament.
Estate Division Under Maryland Laws of Intestacy
The Maryland intestacy laws are based on the lineal bloodlines of the decedent. For example, heirs of an estate include spouses and children. In the event that there are no spouses or children then the heirs would be the decedent’s surviving parents. If there are no parents then the heirs could be siblings, nieces and nephews and so on.
Factors That Influence Estate Division
Under the laws of intestacy, the shares that the spouse, the descendants and parents receive is dictated by who survives the decedent. The spouse’s share is dictated to some degree by whether or not there are minor children or parents that are alive.
Intestacy can be complicated when a decedent dies with minor children, and has not prepared for portion of his or her estate to pass to a minor. Without a trust established prior to death, and depending on the amount of the estate, the surviving parent may need to petition the court to be appointed as the guardian of the property of the minor child. The guardianship procedure can be time consuming, and requires continued court oversight until the child turns 18.
Whether There is a Surviving Spouse and/or Surviving Issue
In general, Maryland says that the share of the estate to be distributed to the surviving spouse is based on whether or not there are minor children or children shared by the decedent and the surviving spouse. There are other factors that may come into play. In such instances, it is important to consult an experienced probate lawyer in Maryland to understand each particular situation.
If there is a surviving spouse and surviving minor children then the spouse’s share is one-half. If there are no surviving minor children but there are surviving issue, meaning there are other surviving children who are over the age of 18, then the share will be the first $15,000 plus one-half of the residue.
In the event that there is no surviving issue, but there is a surviving parent of the decedent then the share will be $15,000 plus one-half of the residue.
If there is no surviving issue or surviving parent then the share of the surviving spouse is the entire estate.
In the event that there is no surviving spouse and surviving issue, and there are just surviving parents then the surviving parents would take the residuary of the estate and so on depending on what the actual heirs are living at the time of death. The intestacy shares for the surviving spouse and children are often in addition to the other allowances that may be provided as per Maryland law.
Property with No Surviving Spouse or Issue
Maryland law states that in the event that there is no surviving spouse or issue (meaning, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) then the personal representative distributes the estate to the parents of the decedent, if then living. In the event that decedent was predeceased by his or her parents, then the estate would divided among the decedent’s siblings. If the decedent was predeceased by his or her siblings, then the estate would be distributed to the issue of his siblings (nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, etc.)
In the event that the decedent dies with no spouse, issue, parents or their issue, then the estate would be distributed to the grandparents of the decedent, or their issue.
If there are no surviving blood relatives then the Maryland law provides that the estate would be divided into equal shares among the surviving step-children of the decedent.
In the event that there are no lineal heirs, then Maryland provides that the estate is held with the State of Maryland for a period of years. If no heirs come forward to claim the estate, then the estate assets escheat to the State of Maryland.
Funds Distribution Amongst Children
Children occupy the same class of descendants or the same level of lineal relationship to the decedent. Typically, in most cases when the laws of intestacy are applied assets are distributed among the children in equal shares.
What Everyone Should Know About Maryland Laws of Intestacy
The laws of intestacy are a default set of laws. It is often better for the decedent to create and execute an estate plan during his or her lifetime so that the decedent’s wishes for the disposition of his or her assets can be carried out. To discuss how the laws of intestacy may affect your estate after your death, get in touch with a Maryland probate attorney as soon as possible.