Maryland law regards wills and powers of attorney as separate documents. In addition, each document creates separates rights and responsibilities for different parties. However, both documents create a mechanism for one person to legally act on behalf of another. In addition, both documents have specific provisions under Maryland law that they must meet to be valid. Finally, wills and powers of attorney in Maryland each have specific legal methods to be revoked.
Under Maryland law, a will is a legal document that describes how the person drafting the document (or “testator”) wants to have her assets and property disposed of when she dies. The will appoints an executor who distributes the assets on behalf of the decedent. When someone dies without a written will, she is considered “intestate,” which triggers a set of laws that apply to the administration of an estate. Maryland law specifies the order in which heirs receive distribution of the decedent's assets if no will exists at the time of death. Maryland law states that only a person 18 or older can legally draft a will. The testator and two competent witnesses must sign the will for it to be valid. When the testator dies, the will must be filed with the register of wills in the county in which the decedent resided.
Maryland law only provides four scenarios in which a valid will may be revoked. First, if a testator drafts and properly executes a subsequent will, he may revoke his previous will. Second, if the testator expressly consents to the destruction of a previous will, it will be revoked. Third, if the testator marries or remarries after the original will and has a child, and that child survives the testator, the prior will can be revoked. Finally, where a testator gets a divorce after the execution of the first will, all provisions related to the original spouse are revoked.
Power of Attorney Creation
Under Maryland law, a person (or principal) can grant a second person (or agent) power of attorney through a written and signed legal document stating that the agent has power to act on the principal’s behalf. Maryland law recognizes three types of powers of attorney. First, a general power of attorney is typically done for financial matters where the principal grants the agent power to act for her in business or personal situations involving money. Second, a limited power of attorney occurs where a principal grants an agent authority to conduct a specific transaction or conduct transactions for a specific period of time. Third, Maryland law recognizes a durable power of attorney or medical directive where a principal grants an agent power to make decisions for the principal should the principal become incompetent, disabled or incapacitated. The Maryland law requires that power-of-attorney documents be written; signed by the principal, agent and two witnesses; and notarized.
Power of Attorney Revocation
Maryland law provides several ways to revoke power of attorney. The principal may tear up the document to revoke power of attorney. The principal can sign a document revoking the power of attorney or sign a document granting power of attorney to another person. Limited and general powers of attorney are automatically revoked if the principal becomes disabled. However, durable powers of attorney remain valid in those circumstances. Limited powers of attorney can state in writing that the power of attorney may expire after certain events occur or a time period expires.
Please contact a qualified attorney licensed to practice in Maryland to find out how the facts of your situation apply to Maryland laws regarding wills and powers of attorney, which are subject to change. This article should not be construed as legal advice.
An attorney and founder of ScrofanoLaw, a general practice law firm in Washington, D.C., Joseph Scrofano has been writing on legal issues since 2008. He holds a Juris Doctor from the Washington College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts with special honors from the University of Texas and a master's degree in international affairs from American University's School of International Service.