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Is your parent's will valid?

In dealing with the aftermath of a parent dying, an individual may have a lot of questions about the last will and testament. Whether he or she is managing the estate or simply a beneficiary, there may be doubts about the validity of the document.

Heirs or other interested parties may be raising questions and perhaps even initiating litigation. Here are the requirements for a lawful will in Michigan and what legal grounds warrant a challenge.

Requirements for creating a will

There are two types of wills under Michigan law: witnessed wills and holographic wills. Here are the factors that must be present in order to create a valid witnessed will:

  • The testator must be at least 18 years or older.
  • The testator must be of sound mind.
  • The testator must sign the will or direct someone else to sign it in his or her presence. 
  • Two witnesses must sign the will.

However, a holographic will may also be enforceable if the testator handwrites, dates and signs the document. A holographic will does not require witnesses. 

Notaries and self-proving affidavits

Michigan law does not require anyone to notarize wills, but it is an option. Self-proving a will via a notary can help ensure confidence in the document and expedite the probate process. 

Undue influence

One way to contest a will is by arguing the presence of undue influence. Undue influence refers to any coercion, manipulation or threats that deprives the testator of freedom of choice. Anyone can exert undue influence, but the most common perpetrators are caregivers. Testators who are isolated and/or have dementia are more susceptible to undue influence. 

Forgery

A will that is created via forgery may not hold up in court. Forgery does not legally or accurately express the intentions of the testator. Suspicious modifications, inadequate legal formalities and handwriting discrepancies can all be signs of a forged will.  

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