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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 111498
Experience:  Experienced in Trust and Succession Law, including Louisiana Laws
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My father died this january (in Maryland). s assets (

Customer Question

My father died this january (in Maryland). His assets ( chiefly a TIAA Creff retirment account), was valued at about $2.2 million. He willed it all to his wife (not my mother), and left a few personal items to his kids (me and my sister, and brother). The only really valuable thing he left to us was his airplane collection (one antique 2 seater valued at $4000, an exotic homebuilt "Lancair" valued at $50,000 and 2 antique planes in pieces valued at maybe $1500 each.
The question: His wife's lawyer asserts that only his assets willed to the kids were in his name solely (I don't even know that this is true), and thus only they count as his "estate" for the purpose of paying off his final debts and probate costs. I thought Maryland was a joint property state. Wouldn't all his assets really belong to the wife. Is this distinction her lawyer is making valid? Unless the wife carefully arranged it, it seems unlikely that all accounts were jointly in his name, his car? Does this assertion of the definition of my dad's estate sound correct, or is it "fishy"? Should I demand proof of the status of all his accounts, his car?? There still is not a lot of money involved (maybe $70k). If wife gets combative the entire value could be consumed in lawyers fees. Advice.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 months ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

Maryland is not a community property state, so there can be joint and also separate assets of the estate. A person by will can gift their assets upon their death to whomever they choose to leave their assets to. Maryland recognizes a married couple can have separate and also marital (joint property).

There is a presumption in Maryland that property held by husband and wife is held as tenants by the entireties, even if it is not specified (if there is a title or deed only in one person's name it is their separate property). In Tenants by Entireties, there is a right of survivorship and the owners cannot individually convey or partition their individual interests. Property held as Tenants by the Entireties is immune from creditors of one spouse (except for Fed Tax liens).

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