What does it mean to be intestate?

When someone dies without a will, that means he or she has died “intestate.” If a person dies intestate, Maryland law, and not the deceased individual, decides who will inherit property from the intestate decedent, the priority for family members to receive property, and how much each individual will receive.

In 2017, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill, which Governor Hogan signed, amending the intestacy law.  Effective October 1, 2017, the new law allows a larger spousal share if there are surviving children who are not minors (under the age of 18).  This amount is now $40,000, increased from the previous $15,000 amount.  This change follows the modifications enacted in 2013 that allowed the state to inherit if there is no surviving family and the decedent received Medical Assistance.

In addition, the Maryland law allows a family allowance of $10,000 to the surviving spouse and $5,000 for each minor child.  This is paid before any intestate distribution is made from the estate.

Overview of Maryland Intestacy Law:

Mary Landers passes away.

If Mary has children but no spouse, then the children inherit everything.

If Mary has a surviving spouse, but no living parents or children, then Mary’s spouse inherits everything.

If Mary has a surviving spouse and children who are under 18-years-old, then Mary’s spouse inherits half of the intestate property, and Mary’s children, as a group, receive the remainder.

If Mary has a surviving spouse and children or other descendants, but none of the children are under age 18, then the spouse receives $40,000 of the intestate property and half of the remaining property, and Mary’s children and/or their descendants receive the remainder.

If Mary has a surviving spouse, but has no children or other descendants, and Mary’s parents are alive at the time of Mary’s death, then Mary’s spouse receives $40,000 of the intestate property and half of the remaining property, and Mary’s parents receive the remainder.

If Mary has no surviving spouse or descendants, but has surviving parents, then Mary’s parents will receive the intestate estate.

If Mary has no surviving spouse, descendants or parents, then Mary’s siblings inherit everything.

If Mary has no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, or siblings, then Mary’s grandparents would inherit everything, with one-quarter going to her each of her maternal grandparents, and one-quarter going to her each of her paternal grandparents, and assuming they survive her.  If her grandparents do not survive her, and her grandparents had other children, then they, or their descendants, would inherit.

If Mary does not have any family that survive her, her property will go to the state. This means that this property will go to the Maryland Department of Health or the local county board of education in the county where Mary resided.

And you thought estate planning was complicated?  If you have questions about estate planning, please contact me.

Maryland Makes Minor Change to Intestate Law
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