Does a Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything in Maryland?

Wills enable you to articulate specific wishes regarding the distribution of assets after your passing. They offer a means to safeguard your intentions and ensure that loved ones receive the designated inheritance according to your individual preferences. However, if you pass away without a will, then your estate will be distributed according to Maryland’s intestacy statutes.

If you pass away without a will in Maryland and have no children, then your spouse will inherit your entire estate. On the other hand, if you and your spouse have a child under 18, then your spouse will inherit half of your estate while the rest goes to your children in equal shares. The situation can become more complicated if you have children or grandchildren from other relationships. Fortunately, our legal team can help you craft an estate plan that ensures your assets are distributed according to your specific wishes.

Seek guidance from our Maryland wills and estate planning lawyers by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.

What Does the Spouse of the Deceased Inherit in Maryland?

In Maryland, the rules governing spousal inheritance vary based on specific circumstances. Without a will, the distribution of assets depends on the laws of intestate succession. Meanwhile, having a will allows individuals to customize the allocation of their estate, including provisions for their spouse. Get help from our Maryland wills and estate planning attorneys if you want to specifically say what happens to your assets after you pass.

Spousal Inheritance in Maryland No Children

In Maryland, if you pass away without a will and you are survived by a spouse, who gets your estate depends on certain factors.

First, if you do not have any children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate under Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art, § 3-102(a).

Spousal Inheritance with Shared Minor Children

On the other hand, § 3-102(b) establishes that your spouse will only inherit half of your estate if you share surviving minor children. Your children will then be entitled to share everything else under Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art, § 3-103.

Spousal Inheritance with Shared Adult Children or Children from Other Relationships

The situation becomes more nuanced if you do not have a will and there are adult children or children from other relationships in the picture. If you have children from a previous relationship or if all your children are adults, then the spouse does not automatically inherit everything under intestate law.

According to Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art, § 3-102(c), in either of these situations your spouse will be entitled to the first $100,000 of intestate property and half of the remaining estate. Meanwhile, your descendants would inherit the other half and divide it equally.

The Role of a Will in Determining Spousal Inheritance

It’s crucial to emphasize that having a valid will allows you to specify how your assets will be distributed, including the portion designated for your spouse. If you want to ensure a specific distribution that deviates from the intestate succession laws in Maryland, creating a will provides a legal avenue to express your wishes and allocate your assets according to your preferences. In conclusion, while Maryland’s intestate succession laws provide a default framework, individuals can exercise control over the distribution of their estates by creating a well-thought-out and legally valid will.

How Are You and Your Spouse’s Adopted Children Treated Under Maryland’s Intestacy Laws?

Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art, § 1-207(a)(1) establishes that adopted children will be treated as natural children of their adopting parents. Accordingly, if you pass away without a will, then your adopted children may receive an share as if they are your biological children.

For purposes of inheritance, when a child is adopted, they are no longer considered a child of either of their natural parents, with an exception. If the adoption is carried out by the birth parent’s spouse (i.e., the child’s stepparent), the child is still considered the child of that birth parent, but not the other birth parent. These rules are set forth by §1-207(a)(2) and (3).

What Happens if You Die and Have Children that Your Spouse Did Not Adopt?

According to Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art, § 1-205(b), if you pass away, your stepchildren and foster children are not entitled to an automatic share of your estate.

This underscores the critical importance of having a will, as it allows you to explicitly include stepchildren and foster children in the distribution of your assets. Without a will, these individuals may not inherit anything. As previously mentioned, our legal team is prepared to help you create an enforceable will that aligns with your specific wishes.

What Happens if You Pass Away After Your Spouse Without a Will and Without Surviving Family Members in Maryland?

In the absence of a will or surviving family, the distribution of your property is governed by Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art, § 3-105. In this case, your property faces the process of escheat, where it reverts to the state. Specifically, the property would go to either the Maryland Department of Health or the county board of education in the county where you were domiciled.

This matters significantly because without a designated heir or beneficiary, the state steps in to claim the assets, and your intended legacy or charitable wishes may go unfulfilled. This is another rule that emphasizes the importance of creating a will to ensure that your property is distributed is distributed appropriately and avoids being taken by the state.

How to Protect Your Share of Assets When Your Spouse Dies in Maryland

In order to protect your assets in the event of your spouse’s death, you should encourage your spouse to create a will with our legal team. By taking this proactive step, you can express your desires regarding the distribution of assets and avoid potential complications that may arise when adult children are involved. Our legal professionals can craft a comprehensive will that addresses your unique concerns.

Taking the time to engage our services helps ensure that your spouse’s estate plan reflects both of your wishes, minimizing the likelihood of disputes among heirs and securing the legacy you wish to leave behind.

Call Our Law Firm for Help with Your Estate Planning in Maryland

Get support from our Maryland wills and estate planning lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by dialing (410) 694-7291.