Who Inherits Without a Will?

If a family member has passed without a will, you probably have questions about how their estate will be distributed. Every state has its own “intestate succession” laws that outline how the property of a deceased individual will be distributed. Keep reading to learn more about how Maryland determines who inherits a deceased person’s estate. 

Who’s in Charge?

When there is no will to name an Executor or Personal Representative, Maryland law provides a list of people who are eligible to fill the role, based on priority. If a probate court proceeding is necessary, a judge will choose someone based on that priority list. The first choice is usually the surviving spouse; next in line are adult children, followed by other close family members.  If there are more than one person in the line of priority (for example more than one adult child) they will either have to act together, agree who will be Personal Representative,  or have a judge determine who will act.

Who Gets What?

If a person dies without a will, Maryland law will distribute one-half of the deceased’s estate to the surviving spouse. If there are no surviving minor children, the spouse will also receive an additional $15,000, and the deceased’s children will receive the other half of the estate. If the decedent doesn’t have children, their surviving parents will inherit the second half of the estate. If the deceased doesn’t have surviving children or parents, the entire estate will go to the surviving spouse.  If there is spouse, children or parents, then the estate will be distributed to other family members according to the intestate laws: first surviving siblings, then surviving aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  Even the descendant’s great-grandparents’ direct descendants may be eligible to inherit estate based on Maryland intestacy laws.   

If there are no relatives to be found, the money goes to the State of Maryland (either the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene or the county board of education.)

If minor children are eligible to inherit under intestate law, their surviving parent or guardian will have custody of their money until they turn 18, at which time they will get the entire amount.  Unfortunately, without a Will, there is no way to provide that this money should be held until the child reaches a more appropriate age to get their funds.

Can You Contest an Inheritance?

If you are left without a will and believe that you should contest an inheritance, you can file a petition with the probate court. However, it’s important to note that the process may be a long, uphill battle. You must determine if going through the process makes financial sense, and the potential gain will far outweigh the legal costs. Talk to your attorney about how realistic your chances are of getting your desired outcome. 

Have an Experienced Estate Lawyer by Your Side

When going through the probate process, it’s always a good idea to have an experienced estate attorney by your side. DK Rus is here to help with your probate process. We’ll guide you through the entire process in an efficient, professional, and stress-free manner. 

Give us a call at 410.591.6992 or contact us online today to schedule a consultation.