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Safekeeping of Wills – No Review by Register of Wills

Whenever I prepare a Will for a client, I go over with them the options for where the original Will should be kept. Most of the time I recommend that it be delivered to the Register of Wills for safekeeping in their fire protected vault.

Recently, I spoke with a client who had prepared their own Will without the assistance of a lawyer. They had filed it for safekeeping with the Register of Wills. I reviewed a copy of the Will and found that it was not clear as to one bequest. When I called my client to recommend the necessary change, he was surprised that the Register of Wills had not caught the error. He was mistakenly under the impression that when a Will is delivered for safekeeping it is reviewed by the Register of Wills.

This is from the Maryland Register of Wills FAQs on their website:

Safekeeping Of Your Will

Your will may be filed with the Register of Wills for safekeeping for a one-time fee of $5.00. An original will brought to the Register of Wills’ office for safekeeping should be sealed in an envelope, with your name, address and the last four digits of your social security number clearly legible on the cover. During your lifetime, the will you deposited in the Register of Wills’ office can only be released to you or a person authorized by you in writing to receive the same. You should always make sure that the person you named as Personal Representative is made aware of the location of your will.

Today, I spoke with the Register of Wills in my County. She told me this story. A person delivered her Will by mail appropriately sealed in an envelope but without the $5.00 check. The Register called about the missing check and was told that it was in the sealed envelope. The problem is that the Register of Wills cannot open the envelope to retrieve the check. The person was told she needed to do one of two things (1) send another check, or (2) come to the Register of Wills office, open the envelope herself, retrieve the check, and then reseal the envelope.

The point of this post is to make sure the reader knows that the Register of Wills DOES NOT review Wills delivered for safekeeping.

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