Writing a will is a critical step if you want to ensure that your loved ones and property are cared for according to your wishes after you die. From where your money goes to who cares for minor children, the instructions in your last will and testament should be abundantly clear.
However, writing a will that’s clear, valid, and legally binding isn’t as easy as some online sources make it sound. In this post, we’ll explain how to write a will in Michigan and make sure it addresses what’s most important to you.
Why Create a Will?
Taking the time to write your will properly is well worth it. If you have no will, your property will be subject to Michigan’s intestacy laws. These laws create a predetermined order of succession for your estate, which may not match the way you’d want your assets distributed.
Under our state’s intestate laws, most of your property will go to your spouse, with smaller shares going to your parents and children. If you have no surviving parents or children, everything will go to your spouse.
If you have no spouse or children, your property goes to the next closest relative, and the law includes a list of increasingly distant relations who may qualify. If no relative by blood or marriage is available, your property goes to the state.
A will can also name guardians for your minor children in the event they have no living parents. If you don’t appoint a guardian in your will, the court will appoint a guardian, usually a family member. Without a will, the court will have no way to know your wishes, so the judge will decide based on their interpretation of the child’s best interests.
Before You Write Your Will
To start the process, you should have honest conversations with your loved ones about your plans for your last will and testament. Some married couples choose to create a will together at this point, though estate planners tend to advise against joint wills, since they can unintentionally restrict how the surviving spouse shares money with children or future partners.
In addition to making sure your loved ones are provided for, you may also want to leave assets to organizations you care about. For example, some people divide their assets between a spouse, their children, and a charitable organization or nonprofit they’re passionate about.
Make Major Decisions
Now it’s time to choose who receives what and then translate this information into clear designations in your will. Always use full names of people and organizations to avoid any questionable interpretation.
Make sure your will specifies:
- Who (people and/or organizations) gets your property, money, and various accounts
- A guardian for your minor children (name a second choice as well) and someone to manage their property
- A personal representative to oversee the execution of the will (you may name more than one person for co-personal representatives)
Your will should also include a residuary clause that covers any assets you don’t mention specifically and names a recipient for those assets.
The Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Lawyer to Create Your will
The internet offers plenty of templated-based tools for creating your own will. It’s typically better to use these tools than to go without a will or try to create a will from scratch on your own. However, online tools are no substitute for the expertise and experience of an estate planning attorney.
A lawyer is a specially trained professional who can help you create the best possible will based on your wishes. Your attorney will understand Michigan law and apply it to your situation to create a document that meets your needs exactly. And unlike a software tool, your lawyer will learn about your unique circumstances and tailor your will accordingly. They may even be able to suggest estate planning solutions you hadn’t considered, like a trust, that could address your needs better than a simple will.
Your attorney can also attend to the essential details that go into creating a will that’s valid and legally binding. These details include:
Wills can be handwritten or typed, though typed is probably going to be easier to read and amend. Typed wills require the signatures of two witnesses, which the lawyer will provide.
No matter what, your will must include your name, the date, and a clear statement that it is your last will and testament.
Completion and Legality
When you work with a lawyer, you can be assured your will is complete and legal. The document should cover everything that’s required and address what’s most important to you.
A handwritten will with no witness signatures is technically legal, but it may be difficult to verify in court. The typed version you get with a lawyer should be far easier to prove as valid since it will be signed in the presence of witnesses.
Although wills do not have to be notarized in Michigan, your lawyer can explain how a notarized will may become “self-proving,” which can speed up the probate process.
Making changes to your will, especially if you are young and healthy, is always a possibility. Having children, significantly changing your financial situation and assets, or getting divorced are all reasons to revisit your will.
A lawyer will keep your will on file and can quickly locate the areas that need revision when these types of changes happen.
RELATED: Michigan Estate Planning Basics: Everything You Need to Know
Contact Law Offices of Kari Santana to Prepare Your Will in West Michigan
Whether you’re established and have a large, complex estate or you’re young and just getting started, the experienced estate planning team at Law Offices of Kari Santana can help you get ready for the future with our affordable estate planning services. We understand that your estate planning needs are as unique as you are, and we’ll address them with creative, custom-tailored solutions that can give you confidence and peace of mind.
To get started today with a free initial consultation, call us at (616) 717-5759 or fill out our quick and easy consultation form below.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.