Making a Will in Maryland

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

What Can I Do With a Maryland 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 an executor, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

In Maryland, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Maryland'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, nieces and nephews, cousins, great grandparents, and the descendants of a spouse who dies before you do. 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 Maryland?

No. You can make your own will in Maryland, 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 Maryland?

To finalize your will in Maryland:

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Maryland, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal. Maryland does allow you to make your will "self-proving," which speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it. However, unlike many other states, Maryland doesn't require you to have a self-proving affidavit notarized. As long as the will contains a specific attestation clause, and you and your witnesses sign the will, it will be accepted by the probate court. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 4-606.

Should I Use My Will to Name an Executor?

Yes. In Maryland, you can use your will to name an executor 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 executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

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

  • burning, canceling, tearing, or obliterating the will yourself
  • ordering someone else to burn, cancel, tear, or obliterate the will in front of you
  • making a new will that says it revokes the old one or has contradictory terms to the old will, or
  • reviving an old will that you previously revoked but still exists.

If after signing your will - you later marry and have, adopt or legitimize (legally accept the child as your own even though he or she was born before your marriage) a child, your will is automatically revoked. To have a valid will, you would need to make a new one. If you and your spouse divorce after you make your will (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Maryland law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 4-105. If you have any concerns about the repercussions of marriage or 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 Maryland's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Maryland’s laws about making wills here: Code of Maryland Article - Estates and Trusts Title 4 Wills.

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