Intestate Succession in Maine (2024)

What happens if you die without a will? Learn about intestacy in Maine.

If you die without a will in Maine, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Maine.

Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession

Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:

  • property you've transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account with a named beneficiary
  • securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • real estate for which you have a transfer on death deed
  • vehicles for which you have a transfer on death registration
  • payable-on-death bank accounts, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.

To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of or read about Avoiding Probate in Maine.

Who Gets What in Maine?

Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:

If you die with:

here's what happens:

children but no spousechildren inherit everything
spouse but no descendants or parentsspouse inherits everything
spouse and all of your descendants also are your spouse's descendants (and your spouse has no other surviving descendants)spouse inherits everything
spouse and all of your descendants are also your spouse's descendants but your spouse has other descendants who aren't your descendantsspouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance

your descendants inherit everything else

spouse and parents but no descendantsspouse inherits the first $300,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance

parents inherit everything else

spouse and descendants from you who aren't your spouse's descendantsspouse inherits 1/2 of the intestate estate

descendants inherit the other 1/2

parents but no spouse or descendantsparents inherit everything
siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parentssiblings inherit everything

(Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, §§ 2-102; 2-103 (2023).)

The Spouse's Share in Maine

In Maine, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living parents or descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property as follows:

If you die with parents but no descendants. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $300,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-102 (2023).)

Example: Gerry is married to Joe, and her father is still alive. Gerry owns a house in joint tenancy with Joe, and Joe is also the named beneficiary of Gerry's retirement account. When Gerry dies, Joe automatically inherits the house and any remaining retirement funds; those things are not intestate property. Gerry also owns $400,000 worth of property that would have passed under a will if she had made one. Joe inherits $375,000 worth of that property -- that is, $300,000 plus 3/4 of the $100,000 balance. The remaining $25,000 worth of Gerry's intestate property goes to Gerry's father.

If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse, but your spouse has other descendants who aren't your descendants. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-102 (2023).)

Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Karen also has a grown child from a previous marriage. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright. Bill also owns $400,000 worth of other property that would have passed under a will, so Karen inherits $250,000 worth of that property -- that is, $100,000 plus 1/2 of the $300,000 balance. The two children split the remaining $150,000 worth of property.

If you die with descendants who are not the descendants of your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-102 (2023).)

Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright and $100,000 worth of Barrett's property. Barrett's daughter inherits the remaining $100,000 share of Barrett's property.

Children's Shares in Maine

If you die without a will in Maine, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have, whether or not you are married, and whether your spouse is also their parent. (See the table above.)

For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Maine must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Adopted children. Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit.18-C, § 9-105 (2023).)
  • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
  • Children placed for adoption. Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share unless the decree of adoption specifically provides for continuation of inheritance rights. If, however, your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won't affect their intestate inheritance from you. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-117 (2023).)
  • Posthumous children. A child conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share if the child was in utero within 36 months of your death or was born within 45 months of your death. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-118 (2023).)
  • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children's mother when she gave birth to them, they will receive a share of your estate if (1) you participated in a marriage ceremony which later turned out to be void, (2) you adopt the children, (3) you acknowledge your paternity in writing before a notary public, or (4) your paternity is otherwise legally established under Maine law. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit.19-A, §§ 1851; 1881 (2023).)
  • Grandchildren. A grandchild will receive a share only if that grandchild's parent (your son or daughter) is not alive to receive his or her share. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-106 (2023).)

This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.

Will the State Get Your Property?

If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-105 (2023).)

However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, or great grandparents.

Other Maine Intestate Succession Rules

Here are a few other things to know about Maine intestacy laws.

  • Survivorship period. To inherit under Maine's intestate succession statutes, a person must outlive you by 120 hours. So, if you and your brother are in a car accident and he dies a few hours after you do, his estate would not receive any of your property. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-104 (2023).)
  • Half-relatives. "Half" relatives inherit as if they were "whole." That is, your sister with whom you share a father, but not a mother, has the same right to your property as she would if you had both parents in common. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-107 (2023).)
  • Immigration status. Relatives entitled to an intestate share of your property will inherit whether or not they are citizens or legally in the United States. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-110 (2023).)
  • Advancements. If you gave property to your relative during your lifetime, the value of this gift is subtracted from your relative's share only if you wrote this down when you gave the gift or your relative admits this in writing. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-C, § 2-108 (2023).)

Learn More

To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's No Will.

You can find Maine's intestate succession laws here: Title 18-C, Article 2: Intestacy, Wills And Donative Transfers.

For more about estate planning, go to the section of

Intestate Succession in Maine (2024)


What are the rules for intestate succession in Maine? ›

In order to inherit under Maine's intestate succession law, the heir in question must survive the decedent by at least 120 hours. In addition, relatives conceived before you die but born after the decedent's death are eligible to inherit as if they had been born while the decedent was alive.

What happens in Maine when someone dies without a will? ›

In Maine, the property of a resident who dies without a will is distributed under the rules of the state probate code. Some states require intestate heirs to survive the deceased for a certain time before they qualify for an inheritance. In Maine, this survival period is 120 hours (five days).

How to avoid probate in Maine without a will? ›

In Maine, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for virtually any asset you own—real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and so on. You need to create a trust document (it's similar to a will), naming someone to take over as trustee after your death (called a successor trustee).

How long does an executor have to settle an estate in Maine? ›

The Estate Closing (9-24 months)

Probate can conclude when all creditors are paid, taxes are filed, and assets are sold or distributed. After finalizing the executor's duties, the probate court judge then issues the final order of discharge of the personal representative. This court action officially closes the estate.

What is succession to the property of a male intestate? ›

The property of a male Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the provisions of this Chapter- (a) firstly, upon the heirs, being the relatives specified in class I of the Schedule; (b) secondly, if there is no heir of class I, then upon the heirs, being the relatives specified in class II of the Schedule; (c) ...

What happens to a car when someone dies without a will near Maine? ›

A. Surviving spouse. Upon the death of a married resident owner of a motor vehicle registered in this state, ownership of the vehicle shall pass to the surviving spouse, if no will or certificate of title provides otherwise, and if permission is granted by any lienholder.

Do all wills need to be probated in Maine? ›

If you own very little property when you die, the PR can most likely give it to the people you name in your Will without going to probate court. If you own a good amount of property, the PR sends the original Will to the probate court. They ask to be “appointed” by the court as PR.

What is a ladybird deed in Maine? ›

A lady bird deed is a type of life estate deed that lets the owner maintain control of a property until their death, when the property automatically transfers to a beneficiary without going through probate. It is also called a ladybird deed or an enhanced life estate deed.

Which of the following is a commonly used way to avoid probate? ›

Establish a living trust: This is a common way for people with high-value estates to avoid probate. With a living trust, the person writing the trust decides which assets to put into the trust and who will act as trustee.

What is the inheritance tax in Maine? ›

Since Maine is not a state that imposes an inheritance tax, the inheritance tax in 2024 is 0% (zero). As a result, you won't owe Maine inheritance taxes.

How to close a probate estate in Maine? ›

Once the assets have been distributed, the Personal Representative prepares a final account of all income, expenses, and distributions, and distributes the account to the beneficiaries. Finally, the Personal Representative closes the estate by filing a "Sworn Statement" with the Probate Court.

Who can contest a will in Maine? ›

Maine law requires that an objectant must have standing. This means that they must have a close enough connection to the matter such that the outcome of the will contest stands to impact them financially. Generally, to have standing, the person must be a beneficiary named in the will or must be an intestate heir.

What is the small estate limit in Maine? ›

In order to use this affidavit, the death must have occurred at least 30 days prior to when the affidavit is signed. The value of the decedent's estate, less encumbrances and liens, must be less than $40,000 (indexed to inflation: $49,700 in 2024).

Do you need a will in Maine? ›

If you pass away without a will, Maine law provides that your children would inherit your property and not your partner. This may or may not suit you. But, you have the power to change this if you have a Will. If you want to make sure a certain person gets a special item such as jewelry, make a Will!

What is per capita at each generation? ›

Per capita at each generation is an alternative way of distribution, where heirs of the same generation will each receive the same amount. The estate is divided into equal shares at the generation closest to the deceased with surviving heirs.

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