What is considered to be a legal Will?

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What is considered to be a legal Will?

My sister took our mother to a legal services plan attorney offered by her employer to set up a Will. It was signed by my mother and witnessed by 2 other people. It was not on legal letterhead, just plain white paper, nor was it signed by an attorney or notarized. Is this a legal will in MI?

Asked on June 15, 2011 under Estate Planning, Michigan

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The legal requirements for a Will vary from state to state.  Many Wills are written on plain paper rather than legal "redline"paper these days.  Michigan's laws are in the Michigan Compiled Laws; Chapter 700 Estates and Protected Individuals; Act 386 of 1998; Article 2 Intestacy, Wills, and Donative Transfers; Part 5 Wills, Will Contracts, and Custody of Deposit of Wills, Sections 700-2501 through 700-2505.

Generally the requirements are that any person eighteen (18) years of age and of sound mind may make a will.  “Sound mind” generally means someone who has not been deemed incompetent in a prior legal proceeding.A Will must be in writing, signed by the testator - your Mother -  and by two witnesses. Each witness must sign the Will in the testator’s presence. In Michigan, an individual generally competent to be a witness may act as a witness to a Will.  It is recommended that the witnesses to the Will be “disinterested”, which means that they are not a beneficiary of the Will.  But the signing of a Will by an interested witness does not invalidate the Will or any provision of it. Wills can be "self executing"with affidavits from the witnesses already attached. This is better for probate. There is generally not a provision that the attorney must sign it or that the Will itself be notarized.  If you have any doubts go and bring it to another attorney but really it sounds fine.


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