Why Not an Outline (Cheap!) Will?

Everyone, yes EVERYONE, in the State of Michigan has a will. Either you have one that has been prepared for you, you have one that you have written out or the State of Michigan has a “default” one for you. If you die as a Michigan resident but without a will (intestate) the State’s legal scheme provides:

  • First $150,000 of your estate, plus 50% of the balance, goes to your surviving spouse;
  • The rest – or all of it, if your spouse does not outlive you – is divided equally among your living descendants (children, for most of us).

If you have a simple estate (your collection of assets and liabilities), that is the distribution scheme you want and it matters not to you who your executor is, then you might just be able to go without a will.

But, if you want to:

  • Select your executor; or
  • Leave a gift to charity; or
  • Leave an enforceable handwritten list; or
  • Leave anything to anyone other than family; or
  • Pass your assets to your descendants, not your spouse’s,

. . . then you may just need to write a Last Will & Testament.

You can try your hand with the “Michigan Statutory Will” here: Michigan form Will

Second marriages pose particular complications. Do you want all of your assets to go exclusively to your kids and their families? What about the things that you have accumulated with your second spouse? What if your spouse outlives you? If you leave everything to him or her, that puts everything under your spouse’s control.

A number of sites on the internet offer to help you prepare your Last Will & Testament online, sometimes for less than $100. Having a lawyer work with you to prepare it will cost more than that. Why would you, then, choose to work with a lawyer?

Advice and counsel. What do you want to accomplish with your will? Do you know the legal rules that will apply to your various assets? Is real estate different than investment accounts? A joint owner is the same as a beneficiary, right? It doesn’t matter if this is my second (or third) marriage, right?

Yes, anyone can use a word processor, online or off, to create a document that says “Last Will & Testament.” But will it accomplish your goals?

Working with a lawyer you can learn about how title to assets is transferred from one person to another, the pros and cons of each method and what it may cost – in both time and expense – to carry out your instructions, using each approach.

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