If you are a Maryland resident who wants to provide security and peace of mind for your family when you are gone, you need to have a comprehensive, legally binding Last Will and Testament in Maryland. But it can be hard to know where to start.
Do you write one by hand? What assets should you include? Do you need someone to notarize a Last Will and Testament in Maryland? Do you need a lawyer?
At PathFinder Law Group, we are very accustomed to answering these questions. Making a Last Will and Testament in Maryland can be complicated and time-consuming, but having a comprehensive, up-to-date Will is a critical component of a complete estate plan.
It means having confidence and peace of mind for your family and their future-no matter what happens.
To learn more about making a Last Will and Testament in Maryland, why it is important to have a Will, and how a lawyer can help, keep reading!
Table of Contents
What is a Last Will and Testament in Maryland?
A Last Will and Testament in Maryland is a legal document that allows you to control what happens to your estate after you die. It states your wishes about who should receive your belongings (“legatees” or “heirs””) and who should care for any minor children. It also appoints a “personal representative” in your Will-someone who will carry out your instructions.
Having a Last Will and Testament in Maryland is crucial in order to plan for your family, in case the worst happens.
At a bare minimum, a Will includes:
- A list of your assets
- A record of your debts
- A list of taxes that will need to be paid out of your estate
- A catalog of all family heirlooms, safety deposit boxes, and digital assets (such as stocks)
When Should You Make a Will?
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a Will. You hope you won’t have to use it, but it’s important in case the worst happens.
Having a Will is one of those scenarios, where it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
If you do not have a Will and the courts cannot locate any available heirs, the entire estate will go to the state of Maryland.
How Making a Last Will and Testament in Maryland Works
Making a Will can be complicated, so we have broken it down as simply as we can:
Step 1: Decide what property to include in your Will
This can include money, land, family heirlooms, safety deposit boxes, jewelry, stocks, digital assets, and more. An experienced Estates and Trusts attorney will make sure you plan for all your significant assets.
Step 2: Decide who will inherit your property
This can include children, grandchildren, spouses, siblings, friends… really anyone. You will want to consider this carefully to ensure everyone is considered.
Step 3: Choose a personal representative
Choose someone to handle your estate and follow the instructions in your Will. Typical options for personal representatives include spouses, children, siblings, other relatives, or friends. You can also choose lawyers or accountants.
Step 4: Choose a guardian for your children
You want to have a plan for what happens with your kids, should the worst happen. For instance, you may decide to give guardianship to a sibling or godparent.
Step 5: Make your Will
Once you have a plan in place, you make your Will. It is crucial to make sure that your agreement is legally binding. Having a good lawyer is critical to making a Will. They know how to word things legally so your instructions are carried out unconditionally.
Step 6: Sign and notarize your will in front of witnesses
Your Last Will and Testament in Maryland must be attested and signed by 2 credible witnesses.
Making a Last Will and Testament can be complicated, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. That is why it is best left to an experienced Wills and Trusts attorney.
Step 7: Submit your Will to the Office of the Register of Wills in Maryland
Submit your signed Will to the Office of the Register of Wills in Maryland. A lawyer will help you get your Will properly registered and all your paperwork filed.
Requirements for Making a Last Will and Testament in Maryland
There are some specific requirements when making a Will.
For your Will to be valid, it must:
- In writing
- Signed by the person creating the Will
- Be attested and signed by 2 credible witnesses
Be of sound mind
To make a Will, you must also be of sound mind. This means that you must be able to prove that you have the sufficient mental capacity to understand what you are doing when the Will is written and signed.
Types of Wills
There are 5 common types of Wills recognized in Maryland:
A Simple Will is exactly what it sounds like-a basic Will that names a personal representative and includes a list of assets and heirs.
If you are under 50, in good health, and are not concerned about the delays and expenses of Probate, then a Simple Will is probably for you.
A Joint Will covers 2 people-typically a married couple. It usually has a specific set of rules, that look like this:
When one partner dies, the estate goes to the surviving partner. When the second partner dies, the estate goes to their children.
While Joint Wills are legally recognized in Maryland, most Estates and Trusts attorneys will advise against a Joint Will.
A Holographic Will is handwritten by the person making the Will. It is not prepared by a lawyer or notarized. Many states do not recognize holographic wills, but Maryland does. However, Maryland has strict legal standards for Holographic Wills. Unless a Holographic Will abides by these strict legal standards, it is likely that it will be thrown out by the court.
A Last Will and Testament in Maryland outlines a plan for once someone passes. With a Living Will, you outline what you want to happen in any potential healthcare incidents. You can specify healthcare preferences should you ever lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.
Living Wills are a type of medical directive for when the worst happens. It’s something we hope we will never need. Again-it is better to have one in place and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Testamentary Trust Will
A Testamentary Trust is not actually a type of Will. Rather, it is an optional element in a Will that allows for a third-party trustee to manage assets. A Testamentary Trust is actually not established until after the person passes away. However, a Will may include instructions to establish a Testamentary Trust. Testamentary Trusts can be a useful part of a wealth management plan and asset protection.
“Which type of Will is for me?”
The simplest answer to this question is to connect with a lawyer.
A qualified, experienced Estates and Trusts attorney will advise you on which option is best for your personal situation.
What a Will Does NOT Do
While it is always a good idea to have a Last Will and Testament in Maryland, there are some things a will does not do. These include:
- Organizing funeral plans
- Creating a plan for pet care
- Avoiding estate taxes
- Avoiding Probate
- Providing for someone with special needs
At PathFinder Law Group, we understand the importance of having a plan for all of your needs.
By working with a competent lawyer to discuss matters like guardianship and care for your children, care for pets, digital assets, and other special circumstances, you can help to avoid conflict among family members.
When these topics are addressed outside of your Last Will and Testament in Maryland, it can provide confidence that your wishes will be respected when you are gone. Having a lawyer involved can ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the necessary documentation is in place to make sure your wishes are honored.
What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will?
The Probate courts will then decide who gets what based on the law. Maryland statute will decide how to administer the estate; usually to one’s spouse and/or children.
If the person is single with no reachable kids or other heirs under the law, their entire estate goes to the state of Maryland.
That is why at PathFinder Law Group, we understand the value of having a legally binding Last Will and Testament in Maryland so that you can be certain that all of your wishes are honored. Having a comprehensive Will is critical-it will decide how your estate will be administered.
“Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
The primary reason to hire an experienced Maryland Estates and Trusts attorney is this:
An experienced attorney knows how to word things legally and draft and file the proper documentation so your wishes will be honored.
Under Maryland state law you can write your own will, but if the language is problematic, your wishes may not be carried out and your estate may not be distributed how you want it to be.
If you want to:
- Make sure your Will is legally binding and your wishes are honored
- Have confidence that your loved ones will be taken care of
- Save time and energy drafting and compiling lists and documentation
- Ensure you provide security for those you care about
- Be confident that your wishes will be honored if you cannot make medical decisions for yourself
…Then hire an experienced attorney to make your Will for you.
If you don’t have a Will, the right time to make one is right away. Contact a competent Maryland Estates and Trusts attorney today!
If you don’t have a will, the courts will decide how to distribute your assets. A Will provides security and peace of mind in case the worst happens. It is a promise that your loved ones will be cared for after you pass.
The process of creating a Will is complicated, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. It can also be hard to figure out which type of Will is for you, what to include in your Will, and how to address any needs that a Will does not cover.
A qualified Estates and Trusts lawyer will make sure that you cover all of your bases.
PathFinder Law Group is an Experienced Maryland Estates and Trusts Law Firm
At PathFinder Law Group, we understand the challenges that can come up when making a Last Will and Testament in Maryland.
We have experience working with people in all sorts of situations. We have worked with small estates, large estates, and complex estates. We have worked with Simple Wills, Living Wills, and Wills that include Testamentary Trusts.
We have helped to provide security and peace of mind to many people throughout Maryland by creating Wills that are right for them.
We believe in the importance of making a comprehensive and legally binding Last Will and Testament in Maryland so that your wishes can be honored in case the worst happens.
Last Will and Testament in Maryland FAQ
What is Probate?
- Probate is the process where someone’s assets are transferred to the Probate courts after they pass away. Their assets are reviewed by the Maryland Probate Court (called the “Orphans’ Court“) before being distributed.
- “Probate is the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets.” –Bar Association
When is the right time to make a Will?
If you are over the age of 18, you should have a Will.
How do I file a Will?
Submit your written and signed Will to the Office of the Register of Wills in Maryland.
How do I get a copy of a Will?
“You can visit the office or speak to someone in the Records Division of the Register’s Office where the estate was filed.” -The Office of the Register of Wills in Maryland
Does Maryland recognize oral or video Wills?
No, Maryland does not recognize oral or video Wills.
Can a Will be changed after death?
Although a Will cannot be changed after a person passes, the legatees can agree to an alternative distribution to make things fairer.
However, if an heir feels they have been treated unfairly or doesn’t want their share of the inheritance, there are a few actions that can be taken on that person’s behalf. Contact PathFinder Law Group or call us at (443) 579-4529 to learn more.