One of the most important, and commonly understood, parts of estate planning is the creation of a will. However, despite many people’s familiarity with the concept of a will, many people still do not understand some of the intricacies or complexity in the will creation process. First of all, there are different types of wills. While different types of wills can all be legally valid-if they are created correctly-each type of will may not be applicable or well-suited to every situation.
A Michigan statutory will is essentially a fill-in-the-blank will that was designed to make it easier for a large number of people to create a will. This means that while a statutory will may be very useful for a wide range of people who want to protect their interests and ensure that their wishes are carried out, it will not be the best option for everyone. Despite some potential limitations, a statutory will can accomplish many of the same purposes are other types of wills. First and foremost, a statutory will enables a person to designate a personal representative and decide whether to “bond” that representative. The statutory will also allows the creator to designate a second choice.
A statutory will can also allow the creator to appoint a guardian or conservator for children under the age of 18 if both parents become deceased. In terms of property designations, a person can use a statutory will to leave up to two cash gifts to individuals or charities, and these gifts may be of any amount. The statutory will also allows the creator to enumerate a listing of personal property (such as furniture, jewelry, etc.) that he or she wishes to give to certain individuals.
For individuals whose primary concerns are those described above, a statutory will may be sufficient. However, there are many other people-or situations-that would be less suited to use a statutory will. For example, even though a statutory will does allow the creator to bequeath certain property and leave one or two cash gifts, individuals with large amounts of property may benefit from personalized advice on estate planning before making those decisions. Finally, people who may have the need for a trust or people with businesses may be better suited with other types of wills as a statutory will does not accommodate business succession plans or trust formation.
Source: Michigan Legal Aid, “Statutory Will,” last accessed Jan. 4, 2015