What Family Members Can Access a Will in Maryland?

If you are considering writing a will, you might be concerned about who can see it.  If you are planning on excluding someone or giving more of your estate to one child over another, that is something you might want to keep secret from them.  Knowing who can access a will is an important question to get answered if you are in this situation or if you are trying to find out more information about a loved one’s will while they are still around.

While the testator (the person whose will it is) is alive, they can show their will to anyone they choose to.  Most people will keep the will somewhat secret and share it only with their spouse, a close confidant, their attorneys, and perhaps someone they intend to name as executor.  However, there are no restrictions on who they can show the will to.  If they deposit the will with their attorney or with the county, then typically only the testator or their agent/guardian can access the will.  Being a family member doesn’t get you access to their will before death.

For help writing a will or challenging a family member’s will, contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ Maryland will and estate lawyers today at (410) 694-7291.

Who Can I Show My Will to in Maryland?

Maryland law places no restrictions on who you can show your own will to.  It’s your document, and you own it, so you can show it to whoever you want.  However, most people will choose to keep their will somewhat secret.

It is a good idea to keep your will confidential if you suspect that it could lead to familial strife or arguments.  However, if you know that arguments might ensue, leaving your family to find out after you’re gone might cause even more problems and potentially lead to will contests.  As such, you might choose to talk to your family about your will so that they can be prepared and better understand your wishes.

It is usually a good idea to share your will with someone just so that someone knows what to expect.  You should also consider having the person you name as executor familiar with the terms of your will so that they know they will be asked to act as executor and so that they have an idea of what that will entail.  Our Columbia will and estate lawyers can advise you as to who you should discuss the terms of your will with and what steps you should take to make sure people know how to access your will when the time comes.

Keeping Your Will in a Safe Place

If someone comes across a will, there is no law preventing them from looking at it.  While you are allowed to keep your will in your home or at a lawyer’s office, Maryland also allows wills to be registered with the county so that when you pass, they can release the will.  Keeping your will safe is imperative if you want it to be executed after you die, and keeping it from prying eyes is likely a concern for most people.

It is often a bad idea to keep your will’s location a total secret because if you pass away and no one knows where to find it, they will not be able to put it through probate and execute the terms of your will.  As such, having a hidden, secret will might be as bad as not having a will at all.

If you leave your will with your lawyer, they can bring the will forward after you pass.  However, the lawyer could move, close up shop, or pass away, potentially leaving your will inaccessible.  Registering your will with the county’s register of wills is a simple and easy process to make sure that your will gets put through probate.

If you want to edit or modify your will while it is in storage or after it has been registered with the county, you will need to have your lawyers draft a codicil – essentially an amendment to the will.  This can be filed or held under the same terms and processes.

Who Has Access to a Will Filed with the County in Maryland?

If the will in question is filed with the county register of wills, then access to it will be limited.  The law has strict rules about how the will is to be kept, including requirements that it remain in a sealed envelope and that it only be destroyed if certain conditions are met (but that they keep a digital copy even if it is discarded).  There are also strict rules on who can get access to the will.

While the testator is still alive, the register can only give the will to the testator themselves or to their guardian or a person with power of attorney.  That means that no spouse, parent, sibling, or child can get access to a will unless they were granted written permission from the testator or are a court-appointed guardian, as is somewhat common with elderly or ill people.

After the testator dies, the county will open up the will, check who the personal representative/executor is, and continue to hold the will until it goes to court.  It is then up to the executor to file the will for probate to notify interested parties.  That could include both the people named in the will and people who would get a share under Maryland’s intestacy laws (i.e., close family).

Is a Will a Public Record in Maryland?

Wills are not public records until they are put through probate (through court) when the testator dies.  That means that until that time, they are to be kept private and confidential, and they should not be shared.  In fact, theft of a will is a crime, and the law technically restricts you from telling others about the contents of someone else’s will or giving it to someone else.

However, once the person dies and their executor puts the will through the courts, it is a public record.  Anyone can access its terms and find out who was granted shares and what was granted to them.  If you were cut out of someone’s will, finding it as a public record might be the first time you learn of the will’s terms if the executor did not notify you.

Call Our Will and Estate Lawyers in Maryland Today

For help with your case, call (410) 694-7291 for a free case review with Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ Annapolis will and estate lawyers.