Dying without a Testament in the Washington Metro Area

The following is a comparison of the most important rules of intestate succession in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Please note that in the United States the laws of succession are regulated at the state level and are therefore different in every state.

A. In all three jurisdictions, if there are no descendants nor parents, the surviving spouse receives 100% of the estate.

B. If there is a spouse and only common descendants (children or their issue), the inheritance is as follows:

  1. District of Columbia: The spouse receives 2/3, the common descendants receive 1/3.
  2. Maryland: Spouse 1/2, minor child(ren) 1/2.
  3. Virginia: Spouse 100%, descendants 0%

C. If there is a spouse and children that are not common, the inheritance is as follows:

  1. District of Columbia: Spouse 1/2, descendants 1/2.
  2. Maryland: Spouse 1/2, minor child(ren) 1/2.
  3. Virginia: Spouse 1/3, descendants 2/3.

As you see, there are major differences between how these three jurisdictions handle intestate succession. This is one more reason to set up an estate plan.

Please note that the above rules apply only to assets that do not pass through a beneficiary designation (such as Transfer-on-Death or Payable-on-Death) or joint title with right of survivorship. It is possible to set up the various titles and beneficiary designations in a way that allows the majority of the wealth of a person to pass according to these instruments instead of a testament and/or trust.