Validating a Will in Maryland

When validating a will in Maryland, there are several requirements that must be met. If a decedent’s will does not comply with all of the requirements, the will’s terms may not be legally enforceable. The Maryland Orphans’ Court will ultimately establish whether a will is valid under state law.

Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney when dealing with these types of legal questions. An experienced wills attorney could provide valuable insight on this topic.

Requirements of a Validating a Will in Maryland

In Maryland, a will must be in writing signed by the person making the will in the presence of two credible witnesses. The person making the will is called the testator. The testator must be at least 18 years old and have legal capacity, meaning they understand the purpose of the document they are signing.

In addition, the witnesses to the will execution are required to sign an attestation clause. An attestation clause states that the witnesses signed the will in the testator’s presence. The witnesses should also be at least 18 years old and not named as beneficiaries in the will.

Maryland generally does not recognize handwritten wills. An exception to this rule applies to members of the United States armed forces serving overseas (see Maryland Code Section 4-103).

Opening an Estate in Maryland

After a person with a will dies, their will should be filed with the Register of Wills Office in the county where they lived or the appropriate Orphans’ Court. The Orphans’ Court is the probate court in Maryland which has jurisdiction over matters involving wills, estates and will contests.

The Orphans’ Court reviews wills to determine if they are in compliance with Maryland law. If the court finds that a will was properly executed, the court will allow the will and its terms to be carried out as the document directs. However, an interested party may nonetheless object to the validity of a will by filing a will contest, also known as a caveat proceeding in Maryland.

A person may rightfully challenge a will for several reasons such as the testator:

  • Did not have legal capacity to sign a will;
  • Did not sign in the presence of two witnesses;
  • Signed the will involuntarily;
  • Had a more recent will;
  • Signed the will while mentally impaired;

If the court finds that the document purported to be a decedent’s will does not comply with Maryland law, then that person’s estate will likely be distributed according to the Maryland laws of intestacy as if that person had died without a will.

Typically, this means that your assets will be distributed to your spouse, children, parents or closest living relatives. Alternatively, if an earlier valid will exists, the court may abide by its terms.

Although the intestacy laws are designed to reflect what most people would want, it is always better to execute a valid will that reflects your wishes rather than relying on the default intestacy laws.

Validation of a Will in other States

Many Maryland residents may have a will that they signed while they were living in another state. If your will was valid in the state where you signed it, it will also be validated in Maryland. If you move to Maryland or any other state after signing your will, you should consult with an attorney to make sure that your existing will is valid.

The best way to make sure that your will complies with all applicable Maryland laws is to consult with an experienced Maryland trust and estates attorney. An attorney could draft your will and guide you through the execution process of validating a will in Maryland.