Holographic wills: What you should know

Michigan honors holographic wills, which are handwritten, but only if all the other legal specifications for the document are met.

Protecting family members from financial difficulties after death is the goal of many in Michigan who decide to draft a will. There are several choices a person may consider for how to go about completing this objective. In Michigan, it is legal and acceptable to write a will by hand, according to state statute, and this document is known as a holographic will.

What does a holographic will require?

The handwriting and signature of a holographic will should be that of the person who is bequeathing the property and personal effects in the document. These two elements fulfill the statute's requirements for a holographic will, which is that it is in writing and signed by the testator. While most wills must be witnessed and signed by two other people, a holographic will must only be dated, as long as the handwriting and signature are verified.

If there is additional evidence verifying the validity of the holographic will, it may not matter whether all of it is physically handwritten by the testator. Michigan statute says that it may be a valid holographic will so long as "material portions" are in the person's writing.

Michigan, like other states, has a few other requirements for any will to be valid. For example, according to Michigan statutes and cases, a person who writes a will must intend for the document to be a will and must not be under the undue influence of someone else to leave things to certain people. The testator must also be mentally capable at the time of writing and signing the will.

Can a holographic will be contested?

Any will can be contested if there is a surviving family member or other interested person who is not satisfied with the inheritance and believes there is a problem with the will's validity. The contester may have grounds to have the holographic will declared invalid if it can be proved that one of the state's requirements for a legal will was not met.

Michigan statute provides that a person contesting a will has the burden of establishing the basis for the challenge in court. For example, he or she could provide evidence that the testator was not of sound mind when it was written, did not mean for the document to be a will, was under duress or undue influence, or was defrauded or tricked into writing and signing it. The contestant could also show that the will had been later revoked by the testator.

According to Michigan statutes, a testator may include a clause that discourages others from contesting the will. This provision penalizes anyone who contests the will without a valid reason.

Even when a person determines that a holographic will is the best choice for the situation, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to ensure that all the state's requirements are met and the will may not be invalidated in court. A lawyer who is familiar with Michigan estate planning laws will be able to assist those who want to see that their assets and debts are distributed according to their wishes after death.