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Maryland Last Will and Testament

Written by our Legal Team

A Last Will and Testament (also simply called a “will”) is a legal document. It states your wishes for your property and minor children (if any) for after you pass away. It’s also where you name a personal representative to be in charge of settling your affairs.

The legal requirements for making a will in Maryland can be found in Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 4-101. See below for the basics.

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Making a Will in Maryland

Maryland Will Requirements

To make a valid will in Maryland, certain legal requirements must be met. There are requirements for both the person making the will (called a “testator”), and for the will itself.

Testator Requirements

Regarding testators, the law says:

Any person may make a will if he is 18 years of age or older, and legally competent to make a will. Legally competent here refers to being “of sound mind”.

Sound mind generally means that you’re aware of your actions when creating the will. More specifically, it means that at the time the will is made, you understand that you’re creating a will, the nature of the property you own, and to whom you’re leaving your property. Even a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be deemed to have a sound mind, if lucid at the moment of signing. If a testator believes there might be any doubt as to his or her mental capacity at the time of the signing, a letter from a doctor affirming mental competence generally can be included with the will.

Will Requirements

Regarding the will itself, the standard requirements are set forth in Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 4-102.

The law says:

Every will shall be (1) in writing, (2) signed by the testator, or by some other person for him, in his presence and by his express direction, and (3) attested and signed by two or more credible witnesses in the presence of the testator.

Although there are various exceptions and special rules, these are the standard requirements for Maryland wills.

In addition, Maryland allows a will to be made without witnesses if it is written by hand by the testator and signed at the end. Not allowed . This is called a “holographic will”. Holographic wills offer some convenience, but they come with the risk of making mistakes that could leave a will invalid.

Do I need an attorney to make a will in Maryland?

No. An attorney is not required to make a will in Maryland. For the vast majority of people, an attorney will simply do the same things that a good will-making software does — ask you questions and then create documents for you based on your information and wishes. However, in certain situations it is a good idea seek legal advice from an attorney, like if you have a child with special needs, or if you have a high net worth (around $10 million) and are concerned about federal estate taxes. In these cases, an attorney can help you navigate special questions and create a proper plan.

What if I have an old will in place?

Maryland law handles old wills in two ways. First, if you have an old will in place, you can cancel it by creating a new one. A good will usually contains a statement that it revokes (cancels) any prior wills. Second, a will can be cancelled simply by physically destroying it. Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 4-105.

Do I need to file my will?

Under Maryland law, a will is filed with the court after the death of the testator. Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 4-202. So, after you pass away, your will should be filed in your local probate court by the person named to be your personal representative (also called an “executor” or “administrator”). This will begin the legal process known as “probate” through which your wishes are carried out under court supervision.

In the meantime, store your will in a safe place and make sure the right people know where to find it. Note: It is not a good idea to store a will in a safe deposit box, because accessing the safe deposit box can depend on getting court approval, and getting court approval can depend on what the will says!

Are there limitations on how I can leave my property?

You can generally leave your property however you want. However, if you are married, your spouse is entitled to some portion of your property (unless a formal agreement was made). Most married individuals leave everything to their spouse anyway, so this usually doesn’t present a problem.

Some wills leave everything in a bundle, while others break out specific gifts for specific people. Some leave everything in equal shares, and others say that everything should be sold and the proceeds distributed in specific percentages.

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