Are There Requirements to Make a Will in Maryland?

While people are often uncomfortable at the thought of making their own will, it is a necessary step in estate planning. Your lawyer can review the requirements to make a will and make sure your wishes are followed.

There are multiple requirements about what it takes to make a will. First, your will must be made in writing. Oral agreements are not valid when it comes to wills and estates. Once your will is written down, it must be signed by you and two adult witnesses. Simply writing out your wishes and storing the document away is not enough. Other people need to see the document when it is signed. If you ever want to change your will, speak to an attorney. Your old will must be revoked so that your new will can be properly executed. Making a will is more complicated than simply deciding who gets what you are gone, and there are various legal implications to consider.

For help writing a will, call our Maryland wills and estate planning attorneys of Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 and schedule an appointment for a free review of your situation.

How to Make a Valid Will in Maryland

When making a will, one of the most important rules is that it must be in writing. Even so, the law has adapted to our increasingly digital world. While electronically written and signed wills may be valid and legal, physical copies are still required.

Not only must your will be written down, but it should be a physical copy, not a digital or electronic copy. According to Md. Code Estates and Trusts § 4-102(c)((5)(ii)(1), an attorney is responsible for creating a paper copy of any will that is created and signed electronically. We might scan the will and keep a digital copy on hand, but the paper document is crucial.

On top of that, the will must be signed by the testator and at least two witnesses, according to Md. Code Estates and Trusts § 4-102(b)(2). If the will is unsigned, it is not considered enforceable or legally binding, which might present serious problems for anyone named in the will as an heir. Believe it or not, unsigned wills are a somewhat common problem. Many people go through all the trouble of writing out a clear and precise will, but they forget to sign it, and the will cannot be executed.

Most wills are drafted on a computer and printed before they are signed. You might have seen or heard information about people using handwritten wills, but this is not permitted in Maryland. Under Md. Code Estates and Trusts § 4-103, handwritten wills, also called holographic wills, are only permitted in cases involving testators serving in the armed forces. Such a will may only be valid for one year. Civilians cannot legally file holographic wills.

You might have also heard that oral agreements and contracts may be legally valid and enforceable. This is one rule that does not apply to wills. Oral wills are not valid. This goes back to the rule that wills must be in writing. If your elderly relative told you they wanted you to inherit everything, but they failed to write it down, you might be out of luck.

People Required to Create a Will in Maryland

A legally binding will cannot be made alone. Suppose you wrote a complete and precise will before signing and sending it to your lawyer. If this was done while you were alone, the will cannot be executed. According to the Maryland Office of the Register of Wills, a will must be witnessed and signed by two adult witnesses in the presence of the testator.

Witnesses do not have to be anyone in particular. Any two competent, disinterested adults who can sign their names on the document will do. Often, when people draft and finalize wills with their attorney, the attorney might have two colleagues sign as witnesses. Alternatively, you might want to supply your own witnesses. You can have friends or family members act as witnesses as long as they do not have an interest in your estate.

Additionally, no notary is required when signing the will. Often, a notary must be present when formal legal paperwork requires a signature. The notary serves to make sure the people signing are who they say they are and that the document is not fraudulent. Notaries are not required when executing a will; only two adult witnesses are.

Requirements to Change a Will in Maryland

Once a will is made, you should talk to your lawyer about how to change it. This might seem silly if you have just made the will, but knowing how to change it might be extremely important in the future. Your situation might change, and you might want your estate handled differently.

It is not unusual for testators to change or alter the terms of their will at some point. If you wish to completely eliminate your will, you can revoke it by destroying it. If you wish to make alterations to an existing will, you must do so by using a codicil, according to the Office of the Register of Wills in Maryland.

A codicil is another legal document that contains all the changes you wish to make to your will. For example, if you wish to add a new family member or spouse to your will, you may include their name and what you plan to leave them as inheritance in a codicil. The codicil must be written and executed according to all the same rules and requirements as the will itself.

Changes in marital and family status are also major factors in why people change their wills. Perhaps you have divorced and remarried, and you want to remove your ex-spouse and add your new spouse to your will. This is important if your ex-spouse was mentioned by name rather than simply as “my spouse.”

Contact Our Wills and Estate Planning Lawyers in Maryland for Help Making a Will

Contact our Baltimore will and estate planning lawyers in Maryland to conduct a free review of your situation by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.