I’ve had several people ask me over the years about what level of mental capacity is required for someone to create a valid Michigan Will.  The starting point is with the Estates and Protected Individuals Code – Michigan’s law governing Wills (among other things).

MCL 700.2501(2) lists the requirements for someone to legally have sufficient mental capacity to make a Michigan Will.  They are:

  1. The ability to understand that he or she is providing for the disposition of his or her property after death;
  2. The ability to know the nature and extent of his or her property;
  3. Knowing the natural objects of his or her bounty (e.g., who you would normally be expected to give things to, such as family); and
  4. The ability to understand in a reasonable manner the general nature and effect of signing his or her will.

Note: all requirements must be met.

So, how does this “play out” in real life?  Well, there just so happens to be a recent Michigan case that gives an example.  In the case (click here to view) someone challenged a Michigan Will because they felt the testator (creator of the will) lacked capacity when she signed it.  She had been diagnosed with dementia.  The court pointed out that there was no evidence that she was not able to comprehend the nature and extent of her property, recall the “natural objects of her bounty,” or determine and understand the disposition of her property that she wanted to make.  The court stated that “weakness of mind and forgetfulness are insufficient to invalidate a will if it appears that the mind of the testator was capable of attention and exertion when aroused and [she] was not imposed upon.”

If you have questions about a similar situation, call us at 616-827-7596.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on planning for  the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, and family owned business succession – and he is privileged to do so from a Christian perspective.  He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.