Putting together a will is an important part of end-of-life planning, but it can also be a little intimidating.  Most people choose to hire an attorney to draft the will, and in many cases, that’s the right decision.  Others, however, want the security of a will but don’t need anything complex.  For those people, I usually recommend the statutory will.

The statutory will is a fillable form which you can find at MCL 700.2519.  If you fill in the form properly, it serves as a valid will.  This allows people to make a will without the expense of an attorney, a useful option for people with small or simple estates.

With a statutory will, you can do the following:

  • Leave up to 2 cash gifts, either to a person or a charity.
  • Write up a separate list of personal property you want to give to specific people (for example, “I leave my grandmother’s wedding ring to my daughter”).
  • Leave everything else (including any cash remaining after the cash gifts) to your spouse, or to your children and descendants if you are unmarried or if your spouse dies before you.
  • Name a Personal Representative to carry out the will. Most states call this person an “executor,” but Michigan doesn’t play well with others.  You can also choose whether to have them serve “with bond,” i.e., whether you want to pay for insurance against mismanagement by the Personal Representative.
  • Name a guardian for your minor children, and a conservator to manage their finances.

Note that this is pretty inflexible.  If you want to make more than 2 cash gifts, or distribute your remaining property in any other way than to your spouse or evenly to your kids, you should consult an attorney about your options.  Do not try to modify the statutory will.  That could make it invalid.

Once the will is filled in to your liking, you need to sign it.  When you sign it, you need at least 2 (preferably 3) witnesses with you.  You’ll sign it in front of them, and then they’ll sign it.  Believe it or not, that’s enough to make a will.  You don’t even need a notary.

So if you’re starting to consider your end-of-life plans, keep this in mind.  It’s a helpful tool that can save you valuable time and money.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be legal advice.  Consult an attorney before making important legal decisions.