(From “Administering Estates in Maryland, a Basic Instructional Guide” by the Maryland Register of Wills, revised October, 2017.)
If the decedent had a will, the personal representative must distribute the property according to the provisions in the will.
A surviving spouse is entitled to receive distribution of a family allowance in the amount of $10,000. An allowance of $5,000 must be paid for the use of each unmarried minor child (under the age of 18). This distribution is not subject to inheritance tax.
The contest of a will is beyond the authority of the Register of Wills and, thereford, is not discussed in this booklet.
Without court approval of intervention, a surviving spouse may elect to take his or her statutory share instead of the property left to him or her by will. This share is one-third of the net estate if there is also surviviing issue or one-half ot the net estate if there is no surviving issue. There are time limitations on filing an election and a withdrawl, and other issues to consider. Therefore, a surviving spouse who is thinking about filing an election should consider consulting an attorney for legal advice.
If the decedent did not have a will, the personal representative must distribute the net estate to the heirs in the order prescribed by Maryland law. The order is:
If the decedent is survived by:
- a spouse and children, at least one of whom is a minor – the spouse receives one half of the net estate and the children divid the remaining one half equally*
- a spouse and children, all are adults – the spouse receives the first $40,000 plus one half of the remaining net estate, and the children divide the remaining one half equally*
- children only – the children divide net estate equally*
- a spouse and parents – the spouse receives the first $40,000 plus one half of the remaining net estate and the parents divide the remaining one half, or the surviving parent receives the remaining one half
- a spouse wihout any other heirs listed above – the spouse receives the entire net estate
- parents without any other heirs listed above – the parents divide the net estate or the surviving parent receives the entire net estate
- brothers and/or sisters without any other heirs listed above – the brothers and sisters divide net estate equally*
- grandparents without any other heirs listed above – the grandparents divide net estate equally (if all grandparents deceased, to issue of the grandparents)
- great-grandparents without any other heirs listed above – divide net estare equally (if all great-grandparents deceased, to issue of the great-grandparents)
- stepchildren without any other heirs listed above – stepchildren divide net estate equally
- no living heirs or stepchildren – the entire net estate passes to the Board of Education in the county in which the estate is opened, or to the Department of Health and Mental Hygience if the decendent received long term care benefits under the Maryland Medical Assistance Program
*The share of a deceased heir in these categories passes to the issue of the deceased heir.