A will must be signed by the testator, or the person who made the will, and at least two witnesses who saw the testator sign, in all 50 states, including Michigan, according to FindLaw. Notarization is not required in Michigan, but a notarized will may be accepted as "self-proving," potentially making probate proceedings easier for those you leave behind.
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A notary, or notary public, is a public officer with a number of duties. Most often, a notary witnesses other people's signature of important documents. In Michigan, a notary should identify the person by checking his driver's license or other government-issued photo ID before verifying in writing that she watched the person sign the document, according to the Michigan Secretary of State.
Signature and Witnesses
In Michigan, a will must be in writing and signed by the testator and two witnesses in order to be valid, according to Michigan Compiled Laws section 700.2502. In the case of holographic wills, or wills written entirely in the testator's own handwriting, no witnesses are required to sign, but the testator must still sign the will. A will that contains only the signatures of the testator and witnesses must be "proved" in probate court, usually through asking the witnesses to testify that they witnessed the signing of the will.
Wills that contain the signature of the testator and at least two witnesses, and are also notarized, are known as "self-proving" wills, according to Michigan Compiled Laws section 700.2504. In order to be self-proving, the will must contain all the required signatures. It must also contain a signed and sworn written statement from the testator and each witness that she has testified under oath that the document is the testator's last will and testament and that, in the case of the witnesses, they saw the testator sign it. The notary then notarizes these sworn statements, which become part of the will. The specific wording of these written statements is given in Michigan Compiled Laws section 700.2504. The notary must be a separate person from the two witnesses in order for the self-proving effect to be valid, according to the Calhoun County Courts.
The benefit of taking the extra step to have your will notarized in Michigan is that, once the sworn statements are signed and notarized, no additional evidence is required before the probate court will accept that your will is genuine. A self-proving will saves your personal representative and any beneficiaries the trouble of tracking down the witnesses to your will, and avoids the problem of what to do if the witnesses are no longer alive, according to the Calhoun County Courts.
References & Resources
- Michigan Compiled Laws: Section 700.2054
- Michigan Compiled Laws: Section 700.2502
- Calhoun County Courts: What Is the Value of a Self-Proving Will?
- Michigan Secretary of State: Notaries Public
- Calhoun County Courts: Self-Proving Affidavit Notarized by Witness
- FindLaw: How to Make Wills Legal Through Witnesses and Notarization
- The 'Lectric Law Library: Notary Public
- David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images