Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Maryland

Q: Any legal ramifications for withholding a will when someone passes ?Also related, anyway to find attorney who prepared

My boyfriend of 10 years passed away April 1. He told me in 2020/2021 he had done a will & it was with his papers at his shop. He told me who the executor was & that his son wasn't to get anything. It was not filed with register of wills

I believe his son found the will.

I have contacted several law offices in Salisbury but have not found the lawyer who did will.

Any suggestions?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Have you checked with the executor to see if he has a copy of the Will, or any correspondence regarding being named executor? Do you or anyone you know have access to the shop where the Will supposedly was stored? Do you know who he named as beneficiaries under his will?

The purported executor might petition to be named Personal Representative of the estate, which would grant them the authority to search through his papers and access and secure his property.

You and the person who was named executor (“Personal Representative” in Maryland) might file sworn affidavits in support of the appointment of the person named as executor based on the decedent’s statements to you that he made a Will, named the executor, and specifically left his son out of the estate. But if you can’t find the Will or a copy of it, you will have a hard time.

You might run an ad in the local paper and the local county bar association newsletter, or do a mailing to every lawyer in the surrounding area seeking the lawyer who drafted the Will—but that assumes he used a local lawyer, or did not draft the Will himself.

The law requires any person who has the Will of a deceased person to file it promptly with the Register of Wills. Robbery or larceny of a Will is a criminal offense.

The problem is proving the will actually existed. A judicial probate proceeding may be initiated to determine whether the decedent died without a Will, or if he in fact had a Will. The Court may appoint a Personal Representative in that proceeding based on what it finds the evidence supports. It is possible that the court may issue limited orders to search for the Will and publish notices seeking a person in possession of the Will or a copy.

In the end, however, in the absence of the Will itself or a copy that the court accepts as the last Will of the decedent, the court may have no option other than to probate the estate as if the decedent died without a Will. That would mean the son would inherit as an heir.

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