Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:
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.
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.
To finalize your will in Maryland:
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.
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.
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).
You can find Maryland’s laws about making wills here: Code of Maryland Article - Estates and Trusts Title 4 Wills.