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In Maine What Happens If I Die Without a Will

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If you are a Maine resident and die without a will (also known as to die intestate), the Maine probate statutes will decide how your “probate” estate will be distributed. Real estate held in joint tenancy, joint bank or investment accounts and life insurance or annuity contracts with a specific beneficiary are generally not part of the probate estate.

Under Maine’s intestacy law, unlike some other states, your entire probate estate does not necessarily pass to your surviving spouse. The amount of your probate estate passing to your surviving spouse (or now your registered domestic partner), depends on the amount of your estate and whether or not you leave surviving issue (your “issue” are your lineal descendants-your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.) or surviving parents.

If you leave no surviving parent or “issue”, your surviving spouse receives all of your probate estate after your debts, expenses of administration, and statutory allowances are paid. Maine law provides three statutory allowances for surviving spouse and children and mandates they receive certain funds before any unsecured creditors are paid. One is the “homestead allowance” of $10,000.00 for your surviving spouse, or if none, for your dependent children. There is an “exempt property allowance” of $7,000.00 for your surviving spouse, or if none, your children. Finally there is a “family allowance” of up to $1,000.00 per month for a year or a $12,000.00 one time payment for support of your spouse and dependent minor children.

If you leave a surviving parent but no surviving issue, your spouse only receives the first $50,000.00 plus one half of your probate estate after your debts, expenses of administration and statutory allowances are paid.

If you have no surviving parent but leave issue, all of whom are descendants of you and your spouse, your spouse receives the first $50,000.00 plus one half of your probate estate after your debts, expenses of administration and statutory allowances are paid. The balance of the probate estate is divided among your issue.

After distribution to the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner, if you leave no surviving issue, then the balance of your probate estate passes to your parents in equal shares. If you leave no surviving issue or parent, then the balance of your probate estate passes to the issue of your parents, (which generally will be your brothers, sisters or nieces and nephews). If you leave no surviving issue or parent or issue of your parent, then the balance of your probate estate passes to your grandparents or their issues, half to the maternal side and half to the paternal side. If you leave no surviving issue or parent or issue of parent or grandparent or issue of grandparent but you are survived by great-grandparents or issue of great-grandparents, then the balance of your probate estate passes to the great-grandparents or their issue, half to the maternal side and half to the paternal side. If you leave no surviving issue or parent or issue of parent or grandparent or issue of grandparent and if you are not survived by great-grandparents and if there are no surviving issue of great-grandparents, then the intestate estate passes to the State of Maine.

If you have no spouse, but have a “registered domestic partner”, your registered partner has the same right to inherit all or part of your probate estate as a surviving spouse. A “registered domestic partner” is a person who has been identified as a registered domestic partner with the Maine Domestic Partner Registry which is maintained by the Maine Bureau of Vital Records.

Having a will is vitally important if you want your probate estate to pass according to your wishes rather than the State of Maine determining who shall inherit your property. It is neither complicated, time consuming or expensive to draft a simple will. Call us at 1-800-639-2905 for an appointment to discuss a will or any other legal matter.