Any estate lawyer in Grand Rapids will tell you that every person needs a will. Sure, the wealthy may have more assets to distribute, but pretty much everyone still needs to have their last wishes laid out in a legal document.
Even if it is just to keep the peace within your family, a will is necessary. If you want a specific item to go to a specific person, you need to have this in your will or else the laws in Michigan may allow someone else, such as a parent or sibling, the right to that item if he or she doesn’t care to respect your wishes. But how long does the will need to be?
Estate lawyers in Grand Rapids will tell you that the answer is, “however long it takes.” To be legally binding, a will needs to have certain “magic words.” Once all of these are contained in the document, the will is by definition, “long enough.” So, what “magic words” must your last will and testament include?
- Your will needs to state that it is, in fact, your will. You can’t just say that in the event of your death you want all of your assets to go to your cousin. The document should say this, of course, but written into the document must be wording that specifically names this document as your will.
- Your will must list a personal representative. The personal representative is the person who is in charge of making sure your assets are distributed according to your written wishes (if your wishes are not written, your personal representative cannot carry them out without a signed waiver of everyone affected by your unwritten wishes).
- Your will should state where any property should go, and when, in the event of your death. It can be left as a lump gift, or can be divided in small increments, but it needs to list where the assets will be going.
Of course, that isn’t all that makes a will legally binding. Michigan law specifically requires the following:
- You must be at least age 18 and otherwise legally responsible for your own property and affairs.
- You must be of sufficient mental capacity, and able to make legal decisions about your property and interests. Estate lawyers in Grand Rapids will tell you that if there is any reason to think you may not be legally able to make your own decisions, a will can be contested.
To make sure that your will isn’t successfully contested, you should make sure the will is “self-proved.” This means that witnesses sign the document swearing under penalty of perjury that you have sufficient mental capacity. You should also consider having this oath notarized. Estate lawyers in Grand Rapids feel that the additional small fee for a notary is well worth the peace of mind you will have knowing that your will is unlikely to be successfully contested, as this person can attest that he or she has confirmed that each witness swears that you were, in fact, of sufficient mental capacity when you signed the document.
The required length of a will really depends on the amount of property you wish to detail in the will itself and whether you wish to defer to the statutory language or modified your personal representative’s powers and authority. Otherwise, as long as your will states that it is a will, and the personal representative is named, it can be as long or short as you want it to be. Estate lawyers in Grand Rapids have seen wills that are a single paragraph, even; it’s all about how detailed and personalized you wish to make your will.
If you would like to speak with a trusted Grand Rapids wills lawyer, please contact Eyestone Law Offices at 800.667.5291 to schedule a free initial consultation today! We have three offices conveniently located in Grandville, Muskegon, and in Grand Rapids near Woodland Mall and provide services throughout West Michigan.