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Tobin O'Conner & Ewing Practicality in Practice
  • ~ Washington DC Business Law Attorneys ~

Are Handwritten Wills Valid In Maryland Probate Court?

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Your parents can tell you about a time when typing documents was only for special occasions.  Perhaps they used to handwrite most of their homework assignments; for final term papers, they would handwrite a first draft, and then type the paper before bringing it to class on the last day.  These days, only the most special and important documents are handwritten.  With word processing, it is faster to type than to handwrite, so quotidian correspondence takes place through text messages or email.  Handwriting is just for thank you notes sent to wedding guests in acknowledgement of their attendance and their gifts.  As documents go, what can be more important than a will that specifies which of your family members get which of your possessions after you die?  You might think that a will is one of those documents that is so important that it must be handwritten.  Actually, Maryland law still applies the rule that important documents, including wills, must be typed.  If you have questions about whether a will is valid, contact a Washington DC probate lawyer.

Maryland Only Accepts Holographic Wills in Very Limited Circumstances

Maryland law requires wills to be typewritten and to bear the signature of the testator (the author, about whose property the will contains instructions for distribution) and the signatures of two witnesses.  In the context of probate law, a handwritten will is called a holographic will.  The probate courts of Maryland do not consider holographic wills valid and legally enforceable unless they meet all of the following requirements:

  • The entire will is in the handwriting of the testator
  • The testator was outside the United States in the context of his or her service in the Armed Forces at the time of writing the will
  • The testator and the witnesses were not in any of the 50 states or the District of Columbia when they signed the will (in other words, a handwritten will from a U.S. territory such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands is acceptable)

Outside of these very limited circumstances, the court will not enforce handwritten wills.  In fact, it will not even enforce wills that are typewritten except for a few handwritten addenda or edits.  If you need to amend a few details in your will while leaving the rest of it intact, do not just cross out the offending phrase and hand write the corrections in the margins.  Instead, you should file a codicil to your will, which specifies the changes you are making.  Codicils must also be typewritten and signed in the presence of witnesses.  If there is any room for confusion, it is safer to write a whole new will and indicate in its text that it invalidates all previous versions of the will.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

A probate lawyer can help you fulfill your duties as the personal representative of an estate, including resolving disputes about wills.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing for help.

Source:

registers.maryland.gov/main/faq.html#1.2.3

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