How to Write a Will in Michigan

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Write a Will in Michigan

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A last will and testament is a useful estate-planning tool for people who want to dictate, on their own terms, how and to whom their assets should pass when they die. If a person dies intestate (without a will) in Michigan, the probate court distributes their estate according to the state's default laws of intestate succession. The way the court distributes their assets might conflict with the person's actual wishes; creating a will is a great way to avoid the inflexible succession laws and ensure your assets pass according to your wishes.

Man writing on document

Michigan Code Section 386-1998-II-5 sets forth the requirements for creating a valid will. It is crucial that you follow these steps, because the consequences of a court deeming your will partially or entirely invalid can be severe.

1. Choose your desired format.

Do you want to type or handwrite your will? It seems like an insignificant detail, but this decision affects subsequent requirements. For instance, if you handwrite your entire will, there is no requirement for witnesses to be present when you sign it. However, if you type and print your will, you need two attesting witnesses to watch you sign your will and sign it themselves. If you need more guidance, you can find free will templates online or utilize an online service provider.

2. Provide basic information.

Every will must include your full name, your address, and the date (day, month, and year) somewhere in the document (generally at the top). It should also clearly indicate that you intend the document to be your will. For example, you can write, "This is the last will and testament of [your name]."

3. Designate a personal representative.

The personal representative, or executor, is the person in charge of executing your will. They pay off any outstanding debts and distribute your property according to the terms of the will. The representative must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent. Your will should clearly identify your personal representative.

4. List your property and designate beneficiaries.

This step is the meat of the will. You must list how and to whom you want your assets distributed. You should also provide a description of each included asset to avoid confusion. For example, if you have two cars and want to give one to each of your children, your will should clearly describe each car and to whom it passes.

You don't need to include certain assets, including life insurance policies, property held in trust, and any joint property, in your will. These types of assets generally already have designated beneficiaries and automatically pass to those people when you die.

5. Add a residuary clause.

A residuary clause ties up any loose ends and covers any property you did not specifically mention in your will. A typical residuary clause might state, "I leave the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate to [name]."

6. Sign and execute your will.

The last step is to sign your will. If you typed your will, you must sign it at the bottom of the document in front of two witnesses. The same two witnesses must also then sign it in front of you. You must also sign a handwritten will, but you do not need witnesses.

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