» Wills

What is the federal estate tax exemption for 2019?

For 2019, an individual can shield up to $11.4 million of exempt assets from federal estate tax.  For a married couple, the exempt amount is $22.8 million. 

Who takes care of my children financially if something happens to me?

You can appoint a conservator for your minor children after your death. A conservator is a person who manages your children’s inheritance and makes financial decisions in their best interests. Unlike a guardian, if you are divorced, your former spouse has no priority to act as conservator of your children and manage their funds if you select someone else. Instead, the person or persons you name in your will takes priority. If you want to make sure that the person you want to act as conservator for your minor children after your death is appointed, you should execute a will and name both a guardian and conservator.

How do I name a guardian for my children of something happens to me?

You can name a guardian for your children in your will. A guardian can be a family member of friend. You can also name one or more back-up guardians. However, if you are divorced, your former spouse’s parental rights take priority over any guardian you name. Aside from a surviving parent, the person or persons you name as guardian take priority over anyone else.

How is a will revoked?

A will is revoked by execution of a subsequent will that expressly revokes the previous will or part of the will. A will can also be revoked by a revocatory act such a burning, tearing or canceling the will by the testator. In addition, a will can be revoked if a subsequent will is inconsistent with a prior will.

Who can be a witness to a will?

Anyone can act as a witness to a will as long as he or she is an adult and competent. A will is not invalid if a family member, friend, or someone who benefits from the will signs as a witness. However, evidence of an interested person acting as a witness can be used as evidence of undue influence if the will is contested.

Does a will have to be dated to be valid?

It depends. A typewritten will does not have to be dated to be valid, as long as it meets the requirements of being signed by the testator and two witnesses. However, a handwritten will does need to be dated by the testator to be valid.

What if a will is missing a witness?

Although a will might be missing one or both witness signatures, the document can still be treated as a will if the person presenting the will for probate can establish by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to be his or her will.

Does a will have to be notarized?

No. A will does not have to be notarized to be valid in Michigan. However, a good attorney will always have a will notarized to add additional validation to the testator’s and the witnesses’ signatures. A notary can also validate that the testator had capacity and was not under undue influence when he or she signed the will.

Can a will be valid if it is handwritten?

Yes. In Michigan, a hand written will is called a “holographic will.” A holographic will does not need to be witnessed to be valid, as long as the will is dated and if the testator’s signature and the document’s material portions are in the testator’s handwriting.

How can I tell if a will is valid?

A will is only valid in Michigan if it is in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will) or in the testator’s name by someone else at the direction of the testator, signed by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after he or she witnessed the testator. A will can also be valid if it is in the testator’s handwriting, dated and signed by the testator.