top of page

Dying Without a Will

Attorney Henry C. Clarke, Jr. understands Maryland's complex intestate successions laws


Have you ever wondered what happens if a person dies without a will, trust or other estate planning document dealing with the distribution of their assets?  The simple answer is that their property passes according to the laws of intestate succession, which is a set of intricate rules that guide the probate court through the process of determining the fate of your possessions.  In Maryland, dying without a will leads to key decisions being made for you, making it difficult for your wishes and intentions to be followed.


Let us review and explain some basic rules regarding death without a will


It is important to understand some rudimentary principles regarding Maryland's laws of intestate succession.  In our state, by law, you direct certain actions to be taken on your behalf which could include that:


  • The Probate Judge may appoint anyone of his or her choosing to administer all property in your name and distribute it as determined by the Court interpreting state laws.

  • You direct that all of your assets be converted to cash, all of your debts paid, including taxes, probate fees, administrative fees and attorney's fees.

  • One of the aternatives is that one-half of your separate property be paid to your spouse.

  • You direct the balance of your estate be paid to your children equally, in cash.  If any child is a minor, the judge can appoint some person to act as guardian for the minor child until the child is eighteen (18) years of age at which time that child receives his or her share outright regardless of his or her financial or emotional maturity, or special needs.

  • If any of your children do not survive you, then you direct that child's share be paid to his or her children, being your grandchildren, equally.  If any grandchild is a minor then the judge can appoint some person to act as financial guardian, or trustee, for the minor grandchild until the grandchild is eighteen (18), at which time that grandchild receives his or her portion of the deceased parent's share outright regardless of his or her financial or emotional maturity, or special needs.

  • If your spouse does not survive you, then your spouse's share will be paid to your children or grandchildren as described above.

  • If none of your children survives you, your spouse receives all of your estate.

  • If your spouse, children and grandchildren predecease you or if you have no children then your estate goes to your parents, brothers and sisters.  If any of your brothers and sisters predecease you, their heirs (your nieces and nephews), will receive the respective share of their parent.

  • If you are not survived by a spouse, children, parent, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces, the Probate Court will find your closest blood relatives and divide your estate among them and their heirs.

  • If the Court cannot find any blood relatives, then your property will likely be given to the State of Maryland


Clarke Law guides clients through the intestate succession process


As the overview of Maryland's intestate succession laws above shows, death without a will can lead to your property being distributed in a manner you did not intend.  Henry C. Clarke, Jr. helps you avoid these undesired consequences by assisting you in creating an estate plan that meeets your and your family's needs.  He can help you choose a proper guardian to look out for your minor child's best interests and ensure that your requests are carried out upon your passing.


Call us today with your Maryland intestate law questions and concerns


Intestate succession can lead to your estate being dealt with in a manner inconsistent with your wishes.  If you need help planning your estate to avoid intestate succession or an experienced attorney to guide you through the process if you are going through it, contact Henry C. Clarke, Jr. for important advice and compassionate representation.  We diligently represent clients throughout Maryland and Washington, DC by providing effective, efficient and innovative estate planning methods.  Get in touch with us today.

Personal Message


I chose, a number of years ago, to refine the nature of my practice and to focus upon listening, advising and counseling instead of participating in the adversarial aspects of the practice of law...





"Mr. Henry Clarke has helped me personally and professionally.  He made me feel comfortable talking about tough issues..."


Dr. Jean E. Thompson


bottom of page