A will is one of the most important documents a person will create in her lifetime. A well-drafted will passes property to your heirs efficiently. However, a will that does not meet the requirements of Michigan law will likely end up in probate and result in months, if not years, of dispute. To be considered valid, a will in Michigan must contain certain essential terms. Through careful preparation and drafting, you can ensure that your possessions will pass smoothly after you are gone.
The Basic Prerequisites
Before you can create a valid will in Michigan, you must meet two fundamental prerequisites. The first is simply reaching age of majority. The testator (person leaving the will) must be at least 18 years of age to draft a will. The second is displaying "soundness of mind." This is not a high threshold, and does not equate to competence. It simply means the testator is aware of making a will, and deliberately arranging for the disposition of assets and care of any surviving spouse or children.
The Need for Witnesses
Ordinarily, you'll need to sign the will in front of two witnesses. A signature can be any mark that the testator intends to be his signature. If he is unable to make a mark, he may direct another person to do so. The testator must tell the witnesses that the signature appearing on the will is his own and the witnesses must then sign the will in the testator’s presence. Although it is recommended that the witnesses be disinterested parties, it is not necessary under Michigan law and won't invalidate your will. Alternatively, draft a holographic will. A holographic will is one written in the testator’s own hand. Holographic wills do not have to be witnessed as long as they are signed by the testator. Holographic wills are often challenged in court, so they are not usually the best option.
The Will's Contents
Clearly identify the property to be devised. Describe personal property clearly in the will; attaching photos or a video of the personal property is recommended. For real property, provide a legal description of the property or a street address. You may also choose to name a "personal representative," or executor, to oversee the handling of your estate. If a personal representative is not appointed, the court will name one. In addition to the disposition of personal property, your will can contain appointments of guardians for your children and directives about life support.
After It's Written
Your circumstances will change over time, and your will might need to be amended in order to reflect this. An amendment to a will is called a codicil. Codicils can be attached to a will any time after the original is drafted. Initial any changes to the original will when attaching a codicil, and have two witnesses sign the codicil in the presence of the testator. Finally, keep the will in a safe place. Commonly, wills are stored in safe deposit boxes or attorney’s offices. Make sure that someone knows you have a will and where to find it after you pass.
If the property to be distributed is significant, or you expect family squabbling over the will, hire an attorney with expertise to draft your will.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or counsel.