Most people will not make an estate plan before the end of their lives. The few who do may limit their estate planning to drafting a simple will. This may be sufficient if the estate has no complex assets or complicated heirs. While it may be the intent of the testator, the one who drafts a will, to alleviate confusion for loved ones, a will that fails to comply with Michigan law may have the opposite effect.

Jotting down one’s wishes on a yellow legal pad may seem cheap and convenient. However, it may not hold up in court if potential heirs decide to dispute its contents. Every state has its own laws for what it considers a valid will, which is why it is wise for a testator to have sound legal advice when creating a document that will have such an impact on friends and family.

Michigan, for example, requires one’s will to be in written form and for the testator to sign in the presence of two witnesses. The testator may also direct someone to sign on his or her behalf in front of witnesses. A holographic, or handwritten will, such as writing one’s wishes on a legal pad, may be valid if it meets certain conditions, but it may be a challenge to prove its legitimacy.

It is wise for those considering writing a will to avoid online, do-it-yourself websites or software. These may not comply with Michigan estate planning laws and may not help a testator meet his or her goals. Instead, reaching out for advice and guidance from an attorney who understands the specific rules for valid wills may be in a testator’s best interests.