Creating a Michigan Will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. A will allows for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid Michigan wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Michigan last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Michigan Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions).
Signature: A Michigan Last Will and Testament must be:
• Signed by the testator or in the testator's name by some other individual in the testator's presence and direction.
• Signed by at least 2 witnesses, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after he or she witnessed either the signing of the will or the testator's acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.
Witnesses: At least 2 witnesses are required for a valid will.
Writing: A Michigan Last Will and Testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A Michigan Last Will and Testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
• Holographic Wills: A handwritten will is valid in Michigan. However, Michigan laws are particular on the requirements of a handwritten will to deem it valid.
• Writing Intended as Wills: A document or writing may be treated as a valid will even though not constructed under the formal requirements of a will in specific circumstances under Michigan law.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property is distributed after your death.
Other Purposes of Wills:
Our Michigan wills form can nominate a person who will act as guardian for your minor children.
Our Michigan wills form can also name a person in charge of administrating your will, known as a personal representative.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Jointly owned property with the rights of survivorship automatically passes onto the survivor.
Homestead allowance: A decedent's surviving spouse is entitled to a homestead allowance of $15,000.00. If there is no surviving spouse, each minor child and each dependent child of the decedent is entitled to a homestead allowance equal to $15,000.00 divided by the number of the decedent's minor and dependent children.
Family allowance: The personal representative may determine the family allowance in a lump sum not exceeding $18,000.00, or periodic installments not exceeding 1/12 of that amount per month for 1 year, and may disburse funds of the estate in payment of the family allowance and any part of the homestead allowance payable in cash.
Exempt Property: The decedent's surviving spouse is also entitled to household furniture, automobiles, furnishings, appliances, and personal effects from the estate up to a value not to exceed $10,000.00 more than the amount of any security interests to which the property is subject. If there is no surviving spouse, the decedent's children are entitled to jointly share the same value of property.
Providing for Pets
Under applicable Michigan state laws, a trust for the care of your pets is valid. After your death, the trust allows you to assign a caretaker for your pet(s) to ensure proper care of your pet. Legalzoom's Michigan wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Michigan will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Michigan will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Michigan laws.
Revoking a Will
A Michigan will and testament or a part of a will is revoked by either of the following acts:
Execution of a subsequent will that revokes the previous will or a part of the will expressly or by inconsistency.
Performance of an act (including burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying) revoking the will, if the testator performed the act with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the will or a part of the will or if another individual performed the act in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
The first goal of probate is to prove the validity of the Michigan last will. Michigan laws allow two avenues for probate proceedings: informal proceedings or formal proceedings. After a personal representative is appointed under either scheme, administration of the estate will proceed unsupervised. Additionally, you may choose to have the estate proceed by supervised administration by requesting so in a formal proceeding.
Probate proceedings pay the debts of the estate (taken from the assets) and distributes the property as defined in the Michigan last will.
Estate taxes are paid after the testator dies. The estate then becomes a new taxpayer under Michigan laws. The personal representative will apply for a new taxpayer identification number on form SS-4. The number that is assigned is used on any accounts in the name of the estate such as bank, credit union and brokerage accounts.
The personal representative is also responsible for filing tax returns for the estate. These include federal estate and Michigan estate tax returns and federal and state income tax returns. Michigan no longer has an inheritance tax. If a person dies during 2003 and his or her gross estate is valued at more than $1,000,000, the personal representative is required to file a federal estate tax return, form 706.
It is extremely important to make a Michigan will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Michigan state laws.
The following is a basic overview of Michigan intestacy law.
Intestate Descent and Distribution:
Share of spouse: The intestate share of a decedent's surviving spouse is 1 of the following:
• The entire intestate estate if no descendant or parent of the decedent survives the decedent.
• The first $150,000, plus a fractional amount of the balance of the estate, depending on the amount of surviving relatives.
• The first $100,000, plus 1/2 of any balance of the intestate estate, if none of the decedent's surviving descendants are descendants of the surviving spouse.
Share of heirs other than surviving spouse: Any part of the intestate estate that does not pass to the decedent's surviving spouse, or when the decedent does not leave a surviving spouse, passes in accordance to a strict formula according to Michigan law.
Michigan intestate laws may not reflect your intentions concerning the amount left to your spouse and other family members. If you make a Michigan will, your valid will would bypass Michigan's intestate laws and allow you to leave your property as you desire.