From time to time my clients in Maryland ask me if a handwritten last will and testament will be recognized under the law. Handwritten wills, known in the legal world as holographic wills, are currently given legal effect in a number of states. At the time of this post, the following states recognize holographic wills: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. You’ll notice that Maryland is not on this list.
Maryland Does Not Recognize Handwritten Wills
Maryland does not normally allow a handwritten will to be admitted to probate. This means that the estate of someone in Maryland who dies leaving only a handwritten will is to be divided as though he or she did not leave a will. In legal terms, the laws of intestacy will be applied and the estate will be divided according to the Maryland code. While the intestacy laws are basically fair, initially favoring transfers to the deceased person’s spouse and children, the results of applying Maryland’s intestacy laws are often much different from what many people would specify in their wills. It’s worth asking a lawyer what would happen to your estate if you were to die without leaving a will. The answer will depend on the size and shape of your family at the time of your death. If you do not like how the laws of intestacy would operate on your estate then you need to execute a legally valid will!
Limited Exception for Military Personnel While Deployed
It’s worth mentioning here that, under certain very limited circumstances, Maryland will allow a holographic will to be admitted to probate. In order for that to happen, the will must be handwritten by a member of the armed forces while he or she is on active duty in a foreign country. Maryland law recognizes handwritten will only for a members of the military. Provided the will is written by while the person is on active duty outside of the United States, that will is good for one year after his or her service ends. It becomes void exactly one year from the date of the testator’s discharge from service.
Matthew Baum is an attorney with offices in Baltimore and Columbia, Maryland. As a part of his general practice, he provides basic estate planning services for clients of all ages. If you have questions about drafting a will, or about what would happen to your estate if you passed away without making a last will and testament, you are invited to call to schedule a free consultation.