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Maryland Wills: The Basics

A last will and testament will is a document that expresses a testator’s wishes for burial or cremation and disposition of their assets after their death. A testator is a person who has passed away and has left behind a document stating their wishes for their estate and assets after their death. Often, a last will and testament nominates a personal representative. It can also include other provisions such as trusts for minor children or grandchildren, or to provide for a surviving spouse.

Someone who is interested in creating a last will and testament to oversee the distribution of their estate after their death should consult an experienced Maryland wills lawyer as soon as they can. While younger people generally don’t think they need a will, it’s never a bad idea to start early.

Rules Regarding Maryland Wills

A Maryland last will and testament is required to have an attestation clause and be signed in front of two independent witnesses. In addition the testator must meet the requisite requirements for testamentary capacity to sign the last will and testament.

Executing Last Will and Testament

A testator must have the required competency to sign the last will and testament, and it must be signed by the testator before two independent witnesses. The witnesses sign the last will and testament as well. Typically, a last will and testament is executed in a will signing ceremony.

Competence to Sign a Will

In Maryland the testator only needs a moment of testamentary capacity to sign the last will and testament. Generally, capacity is tested by a Maryland wills attorney by reviewing whether the testator knows what his or her assets are, can identify his family, and can identify how the testator would like for distribution of his or her assets to go after his or her death.

The purpose of the standard is to ensure that the testator is competent to understand what assets he or she has and how they are being distributed at his or her death.

Holographic Wills in Maryland

Holographic wills are wills that have been written entirely in the hand of the testator. Although Maryland does recognize holographic wills, they must comply with Maryland law. Unless holographic wills are written properly, there is a chance the courts may not recognize the document as a valid last will and testament. In the event that the court does not accept the holographic will as valid, then the Maryland laws of intestacywill serve as default rules for distribution of the decedent’s estates. An experienced wills lawyer in Maryland can assist you with drafting an executing a last will and testament that complies with Maryland law.

Nuncupative or Oral Wills

Oral wills are essentially a verbal will. However, the state of Maryland does not recognize oral wills. Last wills and testament must be in writing, signed by the testator and witnessed by two independent witnesses.

Video Tape or Audio Recordings

A videotaped or audio recording last wishes are often not considered a last will and testament in the State of Maryland, because Maryland requires that a last will and testament be in writing, signed by the testator, include an attestation clause and be witnessed by two independent witnesses.

What Reduces Chances of Having a Will Recognized

A will may not be recognized if it is not drafted and executed properly. For example, if the will was not signed by the testator, not witnessed by two witnesses, and/or was missing an attestation clause, it may be not be considered valid. A will may also be invalid if there is handwriting or markings that suggest that the will has been voided, or if there an original will found that was executed after the date of the will presented to the court.

Last wills and testaments may be also be found to be void, if it is proven that the testator lacked the requisite testamentary capacity to execute the last will and testament or suffered from undue influence.