What to Do If Your Will Gets Challenged or Revoked in Michigan
Everyone has heard stories about angry relatives contesting a deceased loved one’s will. In reality, over 99 percent of wills are admitted to probate without incident. Michigan courts presume a will is valid unless there is evidence to the contrary. If you want to avoid a potential fight among your own family members, here are some things to keep in mind about making a last will and testament.
Legal Requirements for a Michigan Will
The law regarding wills is actually pretty straightforward. [Michigan requires a will be in writing and signed by the testator (the person making the will) and two witnesses. The witnesses must be adults. They do not need to read the will or understand its contents, but they must witness either the testator’s signature or his or her acknowledgment that the document is in fact their will.
Michigan also recognizes what are known as holographic wills. These are wills where all “material portions” of the document are in the testator’s handwriting. A holographic will is valid even if it is not witnessed.
While it may be legal, making a holographic will is usually asking for trouble. A disgruntled relative can easily argue the document was forged. And without any witnesses, a court may be inclined to agree, especially if there are any previous wills that were properly executed and witnessed.
Properly Destroying an Old Will
This leads to another important point. When you make a new will, make sure you destroy any prior wills. Although making a new will legally revokes any prior wills, if your relatives find more than one document after your death, there may be a contest over which one is the “real” will. The best way to avoid this is by making sure they only find one will.
Revoking a will is as simple as destroying the physical document. Michigan law suggests “burning, tearing, canceling or obliterating” the original will. We may live in an electronic age, but wills are one document that must still be printed on paper. A court will normally accept only an original signed will, not a photocopy or a computer image.
Incapacity and Undue Influence
When wills are successfully challenged, it is usually because the testator “lacked capacity.” Michigan law defines capacity as having “the ability to understand” that the document you are signing is a will intended to dispose of your property. Similarly, a will may also be contested if it was the product of “undue influence” on the testator.
To preempt such challenges, the best thing you can do is work with an experienced Grand Rapids probate lawyer who can guide you through the process of making a will and ensure the final document accurately reflects your wishes. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C., to speak with an estate planning professional today.