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Don't forget the simple things during estate planning

In American society today, the Internet has allowed millions of people to find the answers to almost any type of question at the click of a button. No matter how difficult the query, our Michigan readers can be assured that someone out there has almost definitely posted an answer on the Internet, although the veracity of the answer would probably have to be verified. But what about simple questions? Are there simple questions when it comes to estate planning?

One simple question that was addressed in a recent article was: "What are the requirements in drafting and executing a will?" Readers familiar with previous posts here know by now that this document is the bedrock of most estate plans, but what exactly needs to be incorporated into this document's design in order to limit questions about its validity?

In Michigan, as is the case in many states, a person must be at least 18-years-old and of sound mind in order to draft a will. The "soundness" of a person's mind can easily be questioned if a will is drafted during advanced age or terminal illness, which is why it is so important to draft and execute estate planning documents well before they are actually needed.

Further, the will must be in writing and signed, both by the person who is planning the will, known as the "testator," as well as two witnesses. For maximum protection, the witnesses should probably be two people who will not benefit in any way by the terms of the will, although this is not a strict requirement under Michigan law.

It is easy to forget that even the simplest aspects of an estate plan can be the most important things to remember during the document drafting stage. Remembering how important these initial steps are, however, can be crucial in avoiding probate litigation amongst relatives.

Source: moneylife, "'A will should be a simple document, not in legalese'," April 13, 2013

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