What To Do If You Have Lost Your Original Will

First you should continue your search exploring all possibilities. Did you put your Last Will and Testament in asafe deposit box at a bank or credit union, or in a fire proof box at home or elsewhere? Could you have deposited your Will in the safe at the Register Of Wills? Does the attorney who prepared your Will have the Will in his or her office for safekeeping?  If you have checked the above locations and are certain that you are unable to find your Will, then presuming that you are competent, it is advisable that you execute another Will and be certain to place it in a secure location, such as in a safe deposit box or in the safe at the Register of Wills in the county where you reside.

If you choose not to execute another Will, which is not recommended, and upon your death, your original Will can still not be located, there is another less desirable option available. Presently under Maryland law, if an original Will can not be located, an “interested person” (an heir at law or legatee named in the Will), may file a Petition with the Register of Wills wherein they allege that the original Will was lost or destroyed but not revoked by a decedent, and attached a copy of the Will which they contend is the decedent’s final Will.  A “Consent” to the admission of the copy of the Will,  signed by all interested persons, must be submitted to the Orphan’s Court. If the Orphan’s Court is satisfied with the Petition and documents presented, the Court “may” order that the copy of the Will be probated under administrative probate procedures before the Register of Wills. Whereas, if the Court does not approve the probating of the copy of the Will, or someone objects to its admission, the estate will be administrated by the Probate Court as a judicial probate proceeding.

In summary, if you are unable to locate your original Will, you should have another Will prepared for you and keep it in a secure location, rather than complicate the probate process for your personal representative, and incur additional estate expenses.

Published in the Spring, 2012 issue of Outlook By The Bay magazine.