Wills have strict requirements

| Oct 11, 2018 | Wills |

Disposing of property and assets after death must be done following strict legal requirements. To avoid legal disputes, wills must comply with numerous legal requirements. First, rules govern their signature and execution. While these rules may appear unnecessarily formal, any flaw can lead to a will contest or invalidation.

Michigan recognizes holographic wills that do not meet all the legal requirements for execution. However, certain requirements must be met. These wills also have a greater chance of being challenged and invalidated.

Remarriage can also complicate estate planning. A parent may choose to disinherit their second spouse in the will to pass on their entire estate to their surviving children. But, a spouse who is not named in the will is entitled to part of the estate unless the will specifically disinherits them. Michigan and 48 other states, moreover, grant the surviving spouse the right to take a statutory share of that estate if they are disinherited.

A will does not supersede a retirement plan or insurance policy. For example, a beneficiary named in those plans receive the proceeds of the account or policy even if another heir is named in the will. Beneficiary designations should be updated after major life events, such as remarriage or the birth of a child. Otherwise, a former spouse or other unintended beneficiary could receive those proceeds.

Handwritten changes to original wills are usually unenforceable. Courts may treat the will as being revoked by the testator if there are substantial handwritten changes. Amendments to existing wills were traditionally made through the drafting and addition of a codicil. Now, digitalization of documents makes it more feasible to redraft the will with any proposed changes.

Failure to properly draft wills and other estate documents can lead to lawsuits, probate litigation and family disputes. Courts may ultimately decide the distribution of a person’s estate. An attorney can provide advice and draft documents that avoid these problems.