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

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

Steps to Create a Will in Maryland

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

  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 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 Don't Have 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 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 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 Making a Will in Maryland?

To make a will in Maryland, you must be:

In this situation, "legally competent to make a will" means that you:

  • understand what it means to make a will
  • understand and remember what property you own
  • understand and remember who you want to have it, and
  • understand, remember, and appreciate the claims of people who may have rights to your property, such as your relatives, dependents, and others with whom you have a special relationship.

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.) Type and print your will. Maryland does permit handwritten (holographic wills in limited situations, but they are usually not a good idea. Holographic wills are only permitted in Maryland if you are in the armed services out of the United States or its territories. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 4-103. A holographic will is automatically voided one year after you are discharged from the armed services unless you have died or lost capacity. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 4-103.

How Do I Sign My Maryland Will?

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.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that states who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. 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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust 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. Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 4-105.

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).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a few 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. It is generally assumed that most states will allow them in the near future.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Maryland is allowing wills to be electronically signed and remotely witnessed if certain conditions are met:

  • The witness is in the electronic presence of the signer.
  • The witness is a resident of Maryland and physically in the United States when witnessing the document.
  • The signer and all witnesses are in the physical or electronic presence of each other and a supervising attorney.
  • The signer and witnesses physically or electronically sign one or more counterparts of the same document.
  • The supervising attorney creates a certified copy of the will.

However, if the change is to become permanent, the current law would need to be changed. According to the current law, physical presence is required, which is specifically defined as not being in a "different physical location" than you "regardless of whether the testator can observe the witness through electronic audio-video or other technological means." Md. Code Ann. [Est. and Trusts] § 4-102.

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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