Topics on this Page:
- What does Intestate Mean?
- Overview of Maryland Intestacy Law
- Other Facts about Intestacy Law in Maryland
What does Intestate Mean?
When someone dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” The person who has died is referred to as the "decedent." In the case of intestacy, Maryland law governs the distribution of the decedent’s property. Maryland law establishes a hierarchy that determines the order of inheritance and the corresponding percentage of the decedent's estate that each “heir” (eligible person) is entitled to receive.
Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 3–101
Even if a decedent dies with a will, individuals who would have been that decedent’s heirs under Maryland intestacy law have the right to be informed of any activities in the estate, including distributions. This provides for the opportunity to raise legitimate objections and concerns. Examples of legitimate objections and concerns include challenging a fraudulent or invalid will and seeking to remove a personal representative who failed to meet their duties.
Without a valid will, the personal representative must distribute the property according to Maryland intestacy law. While the personal representative is not automatically entitled to any portion of the decedent’s property, they are entitled to reasonable compensation. However, if the personal representative administers a small estate, they are not entitled to compensation for their work.
Note that Registered Domestic Partner are equivalent to spouses for intestacy purposes. Learn more about inheritance for Registered Domestic Partnerships.
Overview of Maryland Intestacy Law:
If the decedent has children but no spouse:
Children inherit everything. Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts § 3–103
If the decedent has a spouse but no living children:
If the decedent has a spouse and children who are minors (under 18):
- Spouse inherits ½ of intestate property; and
- Children inherit everything else. Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 3–102(b)
If the decedent has a spouse and descendants (who are not descendants of the surviving spouse), but no minor children:
- Spouse inherits first $100,000 of intestate property and ½ of the rest; and
- Descendants inherit everything else. Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 3–102(c)
If the decedent has parents but no spouse or descendants:
- Parents inherit everything. Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 3–104
If the decedent has siblings, but no spouse, descendants, or parents:
- Siblings inherit everything. Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 3–104
Other Facts about Intestacy Law in Maryland:
Adopted children receive an intestate share as if they are biological children.
Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 1–207
Foster children and stepchildren do not receive an automatic share.
Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 1–205(b)
If the decedent has no will or family, the property will go to (“escheat” to) the state. This means that this property will go to the Maryland Department of Health or the county board of education in the county where the decedent was domiciled.
Read the law: Md. Code, Estates and Trusts, § 3–105