In several posts on this blog we have discussed numerous estate planning topics as it relates to wills. One important theme throughout these discussions is ensuring that your estate planning documents will be considered valid at the time they are executed.
Although we have discussed the benefits of creating a will and Michigan's standard for mental capacity as it relates to will creation, we have not covered the basic components that comprise a legally valid will. Thankfully, Michigan law lays out a handful of basic components that comprise a legally binding will
As the executor of an estate is tasked with implementing the terms of a will, he or she should look for the following characteristics to ensure validity:
- The will is in writing.
- The will is signed and dated by the person making it.
- If the will isn't signed directly by the testator, it should be signed by another person in his or her name at the testator's direction.
- The will must be signed by at least two witnesses who swear that the testator signed the document.
These all seem like very basic steps to ensure the validity of a will. However, it's these seemingly obvious details that could be overlooked and throw a person's entire estate plan into jeopardy.
Aside from the statutory requirements for a will, there are some practical considerations to make. For example, a will must be "in writing" to be deemed valid. To ensure accuracy, it may be best to word process the document. Not only could this help verify asset and property designations, it could also help verify the legitimacy of the document.
Ensuring that a will is legally valid may seem pretty simple based on the criteria listed above, but the process can be nuanced. In addition to meeting the basic requirements, people may have very complex assets to distribute to beneficiaries. An experienced attorney can make sure a person's will is valid and assets are distributed appropriately.
Source: Michigan Legislature, M.C.L.A. 700.2502, accessed July 9, 2014