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Beware of ‘One Size Fits All’ Wills
There is no standard, legally foolproof will. And even though an attorney is the
one giving you the Will, many attorneys have two or three stock wills, but most deviate
from those wills to take into account your circumstances. The proper Will depends
upon the circumstances. There is a difference considering the things owned (assets)
of the individual or the married couple making the will. Are they savers so they
will end up with a sizeable estate? (A lady who worked all her life cleaning homes
and I believe a school, gave a $100,000.00 gift when she was in her late 60s or early
70s during the late 1990s). The proper Will may also depend upon the situation of
the heirs (those legally entitled to receive the property (estate) of the one who
dies (decedent). Suppose all but one heir is well off and can meet their own needs,
but there is one who would struggle without some help. That person my be the one
you want to receive a large amount of your property. But then suppose that person
can not handle money? You may want to put the money in a trust. Or what if that
person is disabled and needs help? Then what if that person is in this condition
because of drug or alcohol or gambling or other abuse? Maybe you would be feeding
a bad habit or even putting that person in danger and you may wish to keep them from
receiving any assets. These are all problems that you can address in a will, but
are not addressed in the laws that decides where your property or assets go. These
laws are called laws of descent and distribution, If you have any of these issues
than going without a Will or having only a Statutory Will, most certainly will not
meet your needs.
I, Tess Tatrix, residing at: 123 Wiltherway Way, Middletown, state of Confusion,
declare this to be my Will, and I revoke any and all Wills and Codicils I previously
made, prior to the date of the signing of this my Last Will and Testament.
The opening sentence should make it clear that this document is intended to be your
Last or final Will, so there will be no question of your intention. You must give
your name, (legal name such as John Robert Jones and all names you have been known
by: John Robert Jones, also known as Bob Jones, and JR Jones ). State your current
place of residence. Make certain that you revoke any previous Wills and Codicils
(amendments to previous wills) (a lady married three times died leaving only a valid
Will entered into during her first marriage and disaster ensued for her then husband.
She had told him and the kids that she wanted him to have certain property in Florida,
in which he had invested large sums of money, but in the only legal Will that she
had and that she had made just before divorcing her first husband made children superior
to her husband, so the greedy children insisted upon their rights under that old,
outdated Will). A current legal Will with a revocation of prior Wills and Codicils
can help avoid a court battle if someone should produce an earlier will.
ARTICLE I: Funeral expenses & payment of debt
I direct my personal representatives to pay my enforceable unsecured debts and
funeral expenses, the expenses of my last illness, and the expenses of administering
By law, certain debts must be paid before other assets are distributed. (There are
exceptions, such as Student Loans). This clause gives your personal representative
authority to pay the funeral home, court costs, and hospital expenses. Using the
term "enforceable" prevents creditors from reviving debts you are no longer obliged
to pay, usually those discharged in bankruptcy. And the term "unsecured" prevents
a court from interpreting this clause to mean that your estate must pay off your
mortgage or other secured debts that you probably don't want immediately paid off.
In fact: MCL 700.3805 gives priority for claims [fn(1) All other claims.] against
a decedent. Costs of administration and funeral and burial expenses can vary widely,
but the priorities generally mean that creditors will get nothing if there is a surviving
spouse or a minor child and the probate estate is in the $60,000 range. If there
are surviving children of any age, at least $14,000 can pass free of any creditor’s
claims. Note that there is no priority for creditors who obtained a judgment (except
for a security interest that attached before death). They are grouped with other
creditors in the last rung. Any claims against a decedent are extinguished in three
ARTICLE II: Money & Personal Property
I give all my tangible personal property and all policies and proceeds of insurance
covering such property, to my husband, Tex. If he does not survive me, I give that
property to those of my children who survive me, in equal shares, to be divided among
them by my personal representatives in their absolute discretion after consultation
with my children. My personal representative may pay out of my estate the expenses
of delivering tangible personal property to beneficiaries.
This gives your personal property to your spouse. If there are particular items
that you want to go to other people (such as heirlooms, jewelry, professional equipment,
and so on) you should enumerate them and the person you want them to go to in a separate
clause (e.g., "I give my Elvis albums to my friend Mary Smith"), and note that Article
II excludes those items. Note the important clause that considers the possibility
that your spouse will die first. The clause on insurance means that if some property
you owned was destroyed (perhaps in the event that caused your death, like a car
wreck), your heirs will receive the insurance proceeds, not the mangled car.
ARTICLE III: Real Estate
I give all my residences, subject to any mortgages or encumbrances thereon, and
all policies and proceeds of insurance covering such property, to my husband, Tex.
If he does not survive me, I give that property to .
Most people want their spouse to keep the family home. In some states, particularly
community property states, it's sometimes preferable to leave your residence to your
spouse in a marital trust.
ARTICLE IV: Residuary Clause
I give the rest of my estate (called my residuary estate) to my husband, Tex. If
he does not survive me, I give my residuary estate to those of my children who survive
me, in equal shares, to be divided among them and the descendants of a deceased child
of mine, to take their ancestor's share as provided for in the Will but by the laws
of descent and distribution of the State of Michigan if that person died without
Usually, the residuary clause begins "I give all the rest, residue, and remainder
of my estate...." because lawyers are afraid to change tried-and-true formulas, and
for decades, legal documents never used one word when a half-dozen would do. However,
this plain-English form Will, will also work. This clause covers any property you
own or are entitled to that somehow wasn't covered by the preceding clauses.
ARTICLE V: Taxes
I direct my personal representatives to pay from my estate all estate, inheritance
and succession taxes (including any interest and penalties thereon) payable by reason
of my death. This payment is to be made without regard to what person obtains what
or how much each person obtains (without apportionment against any beneficiary or
One common mistake by people who use a living trust as well as a Will is to make
the beneficiary of the estate different from the people benefiting from the trust.
The same problem exists when there are significant specific gifts and the residuary
beneficiaries are different from the recipients of the specific gifts. In such cases
the taxes are paid those who receive the least property. That can unfairly saddle
some beneficiaries with the whole tax bill, and at worst can even bankrupt the estate.
The goal should be to see that taxes are paid by those who benefit from gifts. Often,
a provision apportioning taxes to taxable transfers is used to make sure that each
recipient of a taxable gift pays his or her fair share. Additional language is sometimes
used to apportion credits.
ARTICLE VI: Minors
If under this Will any property shall be payable outright to a person who is a minor,
my personal representatives may, without court approval, pay all or part of such
property to a parent or guardian of that minor, to a custodian under the Uniform
Transfers to Minors act, or should they deem it prudent, they may defer payment of
such property until the minor reaches the age of majority, as defined by his or her
state of residence. No bond shall be required for such payments.
This clause gives your personal representative discretion to make sure any gift
to a minor will be given in a way that's appropriate to his or her age. Are they
close to majority? Will they spend foolishly? Who is good with money? And the "no-bond"
language is intended to save the estate money.
ARTICLE VII: Fiduciaries
I appoint my spouse, Tex, as Personal Representative of this Will. If he is unable
or unwilling to act, or resigns, I appoint my daughter, Ellie Mae, and my son, Jethro,
as successor co- personal representatives. If either co-personal representative also
predeceases me or is unable or unwilling to act, the survivor shall serve as Personal
Representative. My personal representative shall have all the powers allowable to
personal representative under the laws of this state of Michigan. I direct that no
bond or security of any kind shall be required of any personal representative.
If you set up a trust in the Will, you could name the trustees in this clause as
well. The "no bond or security" clause is designed to save the estate money.
ARTICLE VIII: Simultaneous Death Clause
If my spouse and I shall die under such circumstances that the order of