Making a Will in Maine

How to make a will in Maine and what can happen if you don't.

By , Attorney (University of Arkansas School of Law)

Steps to Create a Will in Maine

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Maine:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make a Maine Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name a personal representative, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Don't Have a Will?

In Maine, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Maine's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and great grandparents. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Maine?

No. You can make your own will in Maine, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Maine?

To make a will in Maine, you must be:

You must make your will on hard copy. That is, it must be on actual paper. It cannot be on an audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.) Maine also has a "statutory will" in which you fill in the blanks for your particular information and the will is presumed legally valid. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-C, § 2-517. Maine does permit handwritten wills (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-C, § 2-502), but they are usually not a good idea.

How Do I Sign My Maine Will?

To finalize your will in Maine:

Your witnesses must see you sign the will or acknowledge it as your will. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-C, § 2-502. Beginning on July 2, 2019, witnesses don't have to sign the will at the time you signed or acknowledged it as long as they sign it within a "reasonable time" after you sign it. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 18-C § 2-502.

Maine law allows an interested witness who stands to inherit from the will to sign it, but that's usually not a good idea, so it's best to have disinterested witnesses sign. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-C, § 2-504.

Holographic (handwritten) wills do not require witnesses, but the signature and all material portions of the will must be in your handwriting. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-C, § 2-502

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Maine, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Maine allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will.

Should I Use My Will to Name a Personal Representative?

Yes. In Maine, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Maine, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying your will yourself with the intent to revoke it, or
  • ordering someone else to burn, tear, cancel, obliterate, or destroy your will in front of you.
Beginning on July 2, 2019, if a new will does not specifically say that it is revoking the old will, new rules will determine whether the terms in the new will should replace or supplement (add to) the terms of the old will. These rules include:
  1. If there are contradictory terms between the old will and the new will, the new will's terms must be followed if this was your intent.
  2. There is a presumption of an intent to replace (instead of add to) the will if the new will disposes of all of your estate. In this situation, your previous will is revoked and only the terms of the new will must be followed.
  3. There is a presumption to supplement the will if you do not dispose of all of your estate in the will. In this situation, the terms of both wills are valid. If there are contradictory terms, the new will's instructions should be followed. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-C, § 2-506.

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Maine law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. However, if you happen to remarry your ex or if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will, then these rules won't apply. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 18-C § 2-804. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.

If you need to make changes to your will, it's best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a handful of states, you can make a legal will digitally—that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. Maine currently doesn't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

Where Can I Find Maine's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Maine's laws about making wills here: Maine Revised Statutes Title 18-C Probate Code Article 2: Intestate Succession and Wills Part 5: Wills.

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