Maine Probate and Estate Tax Laws

What happens to a person's property after they die? Generally, the property is distributed according to the applicable state's probate laws. The probate process dictates how the collection, management, and distribution of a deceased person's estate will be carried out. During probate, all debts and taxes owed by the estate will be paid, and any applicable estate taxes will be levied. This article provides a brief overview of Maine's probate and estate tax laws.

Probate Basics

In Maine, if the deceased dies testate (or with a valid will) then the estate will be distributed according to the terms of the will. However, if the deceased dies intestate (without a valid will) then the estate will pass to the deceased's heirs according to Maine's intestate succession laws.

It must also be noted that not all property passes through the probate process. Probate can be very time consuming and expensive, and therefore people try to avoid it when possible. There are four main ways to pass on property outside of the probate system:

  • Joint property ownership
  • Death beneficiaries
  • Revocable Living Trusts, and
  • Gifts

For more information see FindLaw's section on avoiding probate.

Intestate Succession

Property that does pass through probate, and that isn't validly disposed of by the deceased's will, passes to the deceased's heirs according to Maine's intestate succession laws.

Code Section

Maine Revised Statutes section 2-102: Intestate Succession - Share of Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner

The Surviving Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner's Share

The deceased's surviving spouse or registered domestic partner receives the following intestate share of the estate:
  • The entire estate if there is no surviving children or parent of the deceased
  • The first $50,000 plus half of the remaining estate if there is no surviving children but the deceased is survived by a parent or parents
  • The first $50,000 plus half of the balance of the remaining estate if the deceased has surviving children (all of whom are also the children of the surviving spouse or the surviving registered domestic partner), or
  • Half of the estate if there are surviving children one or more of whom aren't children of the surviving spouse or the surviving registered domestic partner

Code Section

Maine Revised Statutes section 2-103: Intestate Succession - Share of Other Heirs

Share of Heirs Other than the Surviving Spouse or the Surviving Domestic Partner

 

Whatever part of the estate that doesn't pass to the deceased's surviving spouse or surviving registered domestic partner (or the entire estate if there isn't a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner) passes in the following order until someone is alive to inherit:
  • To the children of the deceased
  • To the deceased's parents
  • To the deceased's brothers and sisters
  • To the deceased's grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and then
  • To the deceased's great-grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles

Estate Tax

Both the federal government and the state of Maine (as well as several other states) impose an estate tax on property that is transferred to a deceased person's heirs. Maine imposes an estate tax on estates that are taxable in Maine and that are valued at more than $1,000,000. Additionally, (as of the year 2015) the federal government imposes an estate tax on estates that are valued at $5,430,000 or more. For more information about the federal estate tax visit the Internal Revenue Service's website.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Maine's probate and estate tax laws contact a local tax attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.