Who Enforces a Will in Maryland?

A well-crafted will ensures that your wishes for the distribution of your assets and the well-being of your loved ones are legally protected and respected after your passing. When creating or altering your will, it is important to understand how it will be enforced.

There are multiple parties who may be involved in the enforcement of a will in Maryland. The personal representative, the Orphans’ Court, and legal professionals all play essential roles in ensuring the proper execution of the deceased’s final wishes. Our legal team can help you understand these roles and guide you through the process of creating an effective will.

Seek support from our Maryland wills and estate planning attorneys by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.

Enforcing a Will in Maryland

As previously discussed, the enforcement of a will may involve multiple parties. Fortunately, our Bethesda wills and estate planning attorneys can guide you through the process of creating a will and help you understand each party’s role.

The Role of the Personal Representative

The person primarily responsible for enforcing a will in Maryland is the personal representative. This individual is either appointed by the court or named in the will itself. The personal representative’s primary duty is to oversee the administration of the estate and ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the terms specified in the will. Our legal team can help you choose a personal representative as part of your estate planning.

Court Oversight

Maryland’s legal system plays a vital role in ensuring the proper enforcement of wills. In this state, the Orphans’ Court, which is present in each county, takes on the responsibility of handling these matters. The Orphans’ Court carefully reviews and approves the actions taken by the personal representative, making sure that the will is enforced according to Maryland’s specific legal requirements. It provides a layer of oversight that ensures the deceased’s intentions are respected and that the process is fair and just.

Challenges and Disputes

While the enforcement of a will may proceed smoothly in many cases, there are situations where disputes or challenges may arise. These disputes can be emotionally and legally complex, potentially causing delays and complications in the process.

If you encounter such a dispute, guidance from our legal team can be crucial. We can represent your interests and help you navigate any challenges that may emerge, ensuring your voice is heard and that your rights protected during the enforcement process.

Who Distributes Your Assets if You Pass Away Before Creating an Enforceable Will in Maryland?

If you pass away in Maryland without having created a will, your assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. These laws determine how your estate is divided among your heirs, typically prioritizing close family members.

Under Md. Code, Est. & Trusts Art., § 3-103, the children inherit everything if the decedent has surviving children but no spouse. On the other hand, if the decedent has a living spouse but no children, Md. Code, Est. & Trusts Art., § 3-102(a) mandates that the spouse will inherit the entire estate.

If the decedent has both a surviving spouse and surviving children, then decedent’s estate will be split between both the children and the spouse. Md. Code, Est. & Trusts Art., § 3-102(b) specifies how assets will be split if the surviving children are minors.  Meanwhile, subsection (c) addresses how distribution will be handled in cases involving non-minor children.

If the decedent has no surviving spouse and no surviving children, then the next in line are the parents, followed by siblings, nieces, and nephews if applicable. The state’s intestacy laws extend the inheritance hierarchy to even more distant relatives if closer relatives are absent. If no eligible heirs can be found, your assets may eventually escheat to the state.

It’s crucial to note that intestacy laws may not align with your personal wishes and intentions. Creating a will is essential for ensuring that your assets are distributed in the manner you desire.

Types of Wills that Can Be Enforced in Maryland

There are multiple types of enforceable wills in Maryland. It’s important to carefully consider which type of will best suits your specific situation.

Simple Wills

A simple will, often referred to as a “last will and testament,” is the most common type of will used for estate planning. This type of will outlines how your assets and property should be distributed after your passing. It allows you to designate beneficiaries, specify your wishes, and name an executor to carry out your instructions. Simple wills are suitable for individuals with straightforward estates and uncomplicated wishes.

Living Wills

A living will, or an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document specifying your medical preferences and end-of-life decisions. While it’s not directly related to asset distribution, it plays a crucial role in outlining your healthcare choices if you become unable to make them yourself. This document addresses issues like life-sustaining treatments, organ donation, and the appointment of a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions on your behalf. Living wills ensure your healthcare preferences are respected as you wish.

Pour-Over Wills

A pour-over will is typically used in conjunction with a revocable living trust. This will “pours over” any assets not already included in the trust into the trust upon your passing. The primary purpose of a pour-over will is to ensure that assets you may have forgotten to transfer into the trust during your lifetime are still distributed according to the trust’s terms, ultimately avoiding probate.

Holographic Wills

Md. Code, Est. & Trusts Art., § 4-103 establishes the validity of handwritten wills made by individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces. Such a will is considered a holographic will and can be legally binding even without the presence of witnesses. However, this validity only applies if the will is signed by the testator outside the United States, the District of Columbia, or any U.S. territory. It is important to note that if the testator is discharged from the armed services, this holographic will becomes void after one year, unless the testator passes away before that time or is deemed incapable of making a will.

Call Our Wills and Estate Planning Lawyers for Help with Your Case in Maryland

Get help from our Gaithersburg, MD wills and estate planning attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by calling (410) 694-7291.