Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Maryland wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid Maryland wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Maryland last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements of a Maryland Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years of age
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind.
Signature: A Maryland Last Will and Testament must be signed by the testator, or by another person under the testator's direction and presence.
Witnesses: Two witnesses (who should not receive property under the will) must sign the will in the testator's presence.
Writing: A Maryland Last Will and Testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Maryland Last Will and Testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic Wills: A will entirely in the handwriting of a testator who is serving in the armed services of the United States is a valid holographic will if signed by the testator outside of a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, or a territory of the United States even if there are no attesting witnesses. Maryland laws have specific requirements on the validity of handwritten wills, which must be strictly followed.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, Maryland laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's Maryland wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Maryland wills form may be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled.
Our Maryland wills form may also be used to pass on property to a charity.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
Property owned as tenants in the entirety automatically passes onto the surviving spouse.
A beneficiary in a life insurance policy may not be changed through a will.
Providing for Pets
Maryland law currently does not have specific statutes pertaining to providing care for pets. However, the testator may specify a beneficiary as the new owner of a pet. Legalzoom's Maryland wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Maryland will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A will can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Maryland laws.
Revoking a Will
A Maryland will and testament, or any part of it, may be revoked by any of the following:
(1) By provision in a subsequent will which revokes any prior will or part of it or expressly republishes an earlier will that had been revoked by an intermediate will but is still in existence; or
(2) By burning, canceling, tearing, or obliterating the will, by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his express direction and consent.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Maryland last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, appoint a personal representative to administrate the will, and distribute property as designated in the Maryland last will.
After the death of a testator, a person having custody of his will should deliver the will to the register for the county where the testator was residing at the time of death to begin probate proceedings.
Maryland laws have an inheritance and estate tax. The Maryland Comptroller states that the requirement to file a Maryland estate tax return will no longer be dependent on the federal filing requirement, which is currently $1,500,000. In effect, the estate tax is de-coupled from the federal filing threshold. If any estate taxes are due, an estate tax return should be filed within 9 months of the testator's death.
It is extremely important to make a Maryland will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Maryland laws.
For example, if you die leaving a spouse and children, the spouse will receive of the estate, and the children will receive the other half. The spouse will receive the entire estate when you have no surviving descendents or parents at the time of death.
If you make a Maryland will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.