Sanford, NC asked in Family Law and Probate for Maryland

Q: My M-I-L passed away and my husband’s siblings have yet to notify him. We found out via a 3rd party. Any rights?

We live in NC. My M-I-L lived in Maryland. Funeral director was informed not to tell us anything. Sister-in-law will not return any messages. What rights does my husband have?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Once an estate is opened, it is public record, and all proceedings and filings, including the Will, can be copied and obtained (they are available online, for download, through the Register of Wills' website, which has an estate search option you can search by decedent's name and county of residence at time of death). Until then, it is unclear what your husband is entitled to legally. Certainly there must be more to the background of why his siblings are refusing to divulge any information and would keep him in the dark about his mother's death. As far as "rights" to the estate, that depends on whether his mother had a Will, and whether his mother had a surviving spouse at the time of her death. If there was a Will, his rights are as stated in the Will insofar as inheritance is concerned. If there was no Will, then the laws of intestate succession apply, and your husband would be entitled to an equal share of the estate along with his siblings, if there are any estate assets. Estate assets consist of what was owned solely in the name of the decedent at the time of death, but would not include jointly titled assets with right of survivorship where the other jointly titled owner is still living, or where the asset, such as a retirement account or investment account, has a "Transfer on Death" beneficiary designation, in which case such assets pass outside of the estate directly to the joint owner or named beneficiary(ies).

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