A will makes sure your most prized assets and possessions fall into the right hands after you die. Without one, the Michigan probate court will distribute your estate according to intestate succession laws. In other words, default laws will determine who gets your stuff—and it might not be someone you’d want to inherit your assets.

While the process of creating a will may seem stressful, with the right tools and support, you can write a will that protects your last wishes and your family.

Writing a Will: The Process

Despite the emotional, complex nature of a will, the process itself is relatively straightforward:

Decide What Type of Will You Need

There are a few different types of wills—you may be familiar with living wills, simple wills, or joint wills—all legally reliable options. But there are also holographic wills (wills you handwrite) and deathbed wills (wills you say out loud in your final moments). Not all of these options are valid in Michigan, and the holographic and deathbed wills can be extremely difficult to enforce. If you’re not sure what type of will meets your needs, talk to a lawyer.

Outline the Essential Information

In addition to your assets and custody wishes, you’ll also need to include your name, the executor of your estate, the date, and your signature. If you have a complex situation or aren’t sure how to protect everything you need to, a lawyer can help.

Sign and Date the Document

When the will is complete, it’s ready to be signed and dated by you and two witnesses.

Now that you understand the steps, you are ready to begin writing your will. Remember, if you have specific things you need to protect, like children, multiple estates, or complex assets, or even to just make sure your will is legally valid, you should work with a lawyer.

A Checklist of What You Need (or Should Consider) When You Write Your Will

Ready to get started writing your will? Here’s what you need:

  • A Format You Can Trust: While articles on the internet might suggest a templated will can meet your needs, for most people, that’s simply not the case. To make sure your last will and testament is valid, you need to work with an estate planning attorney.
  • A List of the Assets You Want to Distribute: Compile a comprehensive list of your most important assets that you want to protect in your will. These can be items with significant financial value, like your home and your savings, or items with sentimental significance, like personal effects, furniture, or tools.
  • A Clear Understanding of Your Wishes: The purpose of a will is to clearly and specifically outline what you want to happen to your assets, property, and other items of importance. It is not in your best interests — or the interests of your beneficiaries — to write a vague or suggestive will. Be as direct as you can, and don’t rely on your beneficiaries to “know” what you want or “do the right thing” later on.

Let’s say you have a spouse, and you both have children from previous marriages. You want your biological children to inherit a portion of your assets, so that’s what your will should say. If you leave all your assets to your spouse, trusting they’ll pass them on to your children, there is nothing that legally requires them to do so, putting your children’s futures at risk.

  • People You Trust: When making your will, you need to include someone who will make sure your wishes go into effect. This person is called the executor of the estate, and should be someone you trust. If you have children, you should include a person or people you would like to be guardians of your kids. While you don’t have to ask them before naming them as guardians in your will, we recommend it.
  • Witnesses to Sign the Will: If you’re making a will, you’ll need two people over the age of 18 to sign as witnesses to make it legally valid. A will does not need to be notarized in Michigan.
  • A Safe Place for Your Will: Once your will is complete, keep it in a place that will be easy to access and make sure to tell someone about it. A document that clearly spells out your last wishes will be no good to your loved ones hidden under a floorboard.
  • A Plan for Updates: Occasionally, you might need to make changes to your will. Acquiring new property or assets is one good reason; to make sure these changes are included in your will, work with an attorney to update your will.
  • A Personal Note (Optional): A will is a formal, legal document. If you want to add a personal touch, include a letter to be read with your will.

RELATED: Michigan Estate Planning Basics: Everything You Need to Know

Still Have Questions About Writing Your Will in Michigan? Don’t Wait to Talk to an Attorney

Writing a will can be challenging in more ways than one. If you’re struggling to outline your thoughts, understand your options, or make the provisions you need to protect your family and your wishes, it’s a sign you need to contact an attorney.

An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you draft a will that meets your unique needs, is legally sound, and even includes provisions that you might not even know you needed.

Let the Law Office of Kari Santana Help You Write Your Will

At the Law Office of Kari Santana, we have over a decade of experience helping West Michigan families craft legally valid wills that meet their unique family needs. If you’re ready to get started with a free consultation, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. We’re ready to hear about your needs and begin guiding you through the process. Simply give our office a call at (616) 717-5759, or reach out using the form below.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.