Making a Will in Maine

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

What Can I Do With 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 Die Without 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 do-it-yourself will software or online will programs. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in Maine?

To finalize your will in Maine:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will.

Your witnesses must see you sign the will or acknowledge it as your will. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-A, § 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-A § 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. Under Maine law, you can do this at the time of signing the will or any time after you sign the will during your lifetime.

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 will software and online will 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
  • ordering someone else to burn, tear, cancel, obliterate, or destroy your will in front of you, or
  • making a new will that says it revokes your old one or that has contradictory terms to the old will. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.18-A, § 2-507.
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-A § 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-A, § 2-508 and Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 18-A § 2-801 (effective July 2, 2019). 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).

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-A Probate Code Article 2: Intestate Succession and Wills Part 5: Wills.

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