In Maryland, a will becomes a public document once it is filed with the probate court. The probate court in Maryland is called the Orphans’ Court. After filing, obtaining a will in Maryland is similar to getting other public court documents.
You can retrieve a copy of the will of a deceased person in Maryland at the Office of the Register of Wills. This public office is responsible for various tasks relating to estate administration and the safe storage of wills. For more information on how to begin planning or receiving a Maryland will, contact a qualified wills attorney as soon as possible.
Obtaining a Copy of a Will in Maryland
After a person has passed away, their will and any other documents filed in their probate matter are public records. These records may be examined in the Office of the Register of Wills where they were filed.
While a person is alive, their will is not a public document. Only the testator or a person with signed written instructions can try obtaining a will in Maryland Register of Wills while the person is alive.
The online estate search function on the Register of Wills website may be used to find out basic information about an estate. The estate record will indicate whether a certain estate case has been opened and if a person died with or without a will. The estate record also includes useful information such as the date the case was opened and the date of the will. People may request a copy of an estate docket online. They may also visit or call the appropriate Register’s Office to request a copy of a will. There is a small fee for all requested copies.
Notification of Family Member’s Estate Case
Depending on the type of probate administration, the beneficiaries named in the will, as well as persons who would have been entitled to a share of the estate had the testator died without a will may receive notice that an estate case has been opened. However, notice is not required in all types of probate administration cases, including obtaining a will in Maryland.
How can I make it easier for my relatives to receive a copy of my will?
Although people are not required to reveal their will to anyone while they are alive, they may wish to let their nominated Personal Representative know where to find the original will. If someone’s will is not being held at the Register of Wills, wills and other important legal documents should be stored in a safe place where it will not be accidentally destroyed or lost. Some attorneys will store original Wills in their firm safes or safe deposit boxes.
Why Can’t I Find a Will?
If you know someone has passed away but cannot find their will, they may not have had one. Although obtaining a will in Maryland is important for estate planning, not everyone has a chance or chooses to execute one prior to their passing.
Since a will is a public document, some people elect to dispose of their estate using an alternate vehicle like a trust. This estate planning method will allow a person to keep the beneficiaries of their estate more private. Please contact one of our Maryland trust and estates attorneys if you would like to know more about locating a will of a loved one or executing a will for yourself.