A will is a written document that sets out the wishes of the writer -- known as the testator -- in the event of his death. In Maryland, the state law on wills is contained in Title 4 of the Estates and Trusts Chapter of the Maryland Code. If a person dies without making a will, he is said to be “intestate” and state laws will determine how his estate is distributed.
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Under the Maryland State Code, a testator must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. Every will must be in writing and signed by the testator, or by some other person for him, in his presence and by his express direction. Two individuals must witness the testator’s signature and also sign the will. It’s common to have wills typewritten, but a will written entirely in the hand of the testator -- known as a holographic will -- is valid if the testator is serving in the armed services of the United States. A holographic does not need to be witnessed.
A testator usually names a personal representative in her will. The function of the personal representative is to administer the testator’s wishes and to organize the distribution of the estate. Anyone may act as a personal representative, including a spouse or family friend. If the estate is large and complex, it’s advisable to appoint a professional adviser to act as personal representative.
A testator may file his will with the Register of Wills for safekeeping, upon payment of a small fee. Wills for filing must be sealed in an envelope and the testator’s name, address and Social Security number should be clearly written on the cover. A testator often adds the name and address of the personal representative.
Changing or Revoking a Will
A testator can change or revoke her will as often as she desires. If she wishes only to make a minor amendment to the will, she can write a short codicil, which should be signed with the same formalities as the original will. The codicil should then be placed with the will. If a testator wishes to completely revoke a will, she can write a new one. In the interests of clarity, the original will should be destroyed. If a testator divorces from her spouse after she has written her will, all provisions in the will relating to the spouse are deemed to be revoked by law. The remaining provisions of the will are unaffected.