Maine last will and testament requirements
Table of contents
Table of contents
A last will and testament is a legal document that contains instructions about who gets your belongings when you die and lets you choose a guardian for a minor child. A will is the first step to creating a solid estate plan, which can also include a durable power of attorney, an advance health care directive, and a living trust. If you live in Maine, you need a will to make sure your loved ones get the assets you want to receive when you pass away — otherwise a court may determine your heirs.
Live somewhere else? See our guide to making a will in your state.
Every state, including Maine, has its own set of requirements for a will to be valid, and they usually pertain to the person writing the will (the testator) and how the will is constructed and executed. An invalid will won't pass muster during probate and can be a headache for your loved ones to deal with after you've died.
In Maine, the testator must be at least 18 years old or legally emancipated, and of "sound mind (§2-501).  They can name beneficiaries in the will to receive personal assets and a personal representative to carry out the terms.
The personal representative, or executor, in Maine must be at least 18 years old and cannot have been found "unsuitable" by the court.
Every will must be signed by two witnesses of general competence within a reasonable time after the testator has signed their will. Maine law allows for a witness who is also a beneficiary but it's recommended to choose someone who is not. (§2-504)
You can make a will without a lawyer in Maine, and it will be valid as long as you follow the requirements set out by state law, including those outlined above. An estate attorney can charge as much as hundreds or thousands of dollars to prepare your will and the cost could be higher in the city than it would be in a smaller town. However, people with complex beneficiaries or a s very large estate may need legal advice and benefit from hiring a lawyer.
Read our guide on how to write a will in nine steps.
Most other people with a straightforward financial situation and estate plan can benefit from creating a simple will with an online service, which can be inexpensive and provide more guidance than a free will form that you download and fill out on your own.
Will templates and even those provided by the state (a statutory will), aren’t always tailored to your preferences and may not be sufficient for your circumstances, including if, for example, you want your will to create a testamentary trust upon your death.
You can write a Maine will by hand. Handwritten wills that don’t have witness signatures — formally known as holographic wills — can be legal documents if they are completed in the testator's handwriting. Unless you’re in dire circumstances, it’s still best to make a typewritten will since handwritten wills may be harder to prove once you’ve passed away and leave greater room for ambiguity. (§2-502)
You do not need to notarize a will in order for it to be valid in Maine. Notarization cannot take the place of proper witnessing requirements. (§2-503)
After you die, at least one witness must appear in court to verify your will, but you can include a self-proving affidavit to remove this requirement and speed up the probate process. The affidavit must be notarized, so you’ll have to bring it to the notary public and pay a small fee.
Learn how to get a self-proving affidavit.
If you want to make changes to your will, you can do so by adding an amendment called a codicil, or writing a completely new will and destroying the old one. Keep in mind that the codicil or new will must be signed and witnessed again in order to be valid.
Maine doesn’t allow wills to be filed with the court during a testator’s lifetime. After the testator's death, the personal representative should file the will with the probate court in the county where the decedent died. Eventually Maine wills become part of the public record.
When there is no will, Maine laws of intestate succession determine the decedent’s heirs, usually based on who is next-of-kin.
If you are married, then your surviving spouse usually has priority to inherit your property. This is how much your surviving spouse could inherit in a few different circumstances (§2-102):
If the decedent is a survived by spouse and:
Surviving spouse's share
No children or parents of the decedent
Children from the surviving spouse only
Children from someone else
1/2 of the intestate estate
Parents but no children
The first $300,000, plus 3/4 of any balance of the intestate estate
Children from the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has other children
The first $100,000, plus 1/2 of any balance of the intestate estate
If the deceased did not leave a surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along to family and relatives in the following order (§2-103):
Children, or their children
Siblings of the decedent, or their children
Grandparents or their descendants (aunts/uncles, cousins)
Great-grandparents or their descendants
Descendants of a deceased spouse
If an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their children by a per capita at each generation designation. (§2-106)
Learn more about what happens when you die without a will.
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Maine Revised Statutes
. "Title 18-C: Probate Code
." Accessed September 13, 2021.
Elissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.
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