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A Better Partnership
November 14, 2016

COA holds that no signature is required in a will if clear and convincing evidence establishes decedent intended the document to constitute his or her will

In Re Attia Estate, No. 327925, the Court of Appeals held the probate court erred by concluding that an unsigned will cannot be admitted to probate as a matter of law. The sole issue presented on appeal was whether a decedent must sign a will in order for that will to be admitted to probate.

Appellant contended that the decedent changed his estate plan during a meeting with his attorney before his death, and he directed the attorney to draft a new will. Appellant also contended that the attorney drafted a new will and arranged for the execution of the will on the same day the decedent died. Appellant filed a petition to determine whether an undated, unsigned will may be admitted to probate alleging that although MCL 700.2502 requires that a will be signed, MCL 700.2503 provides an exception to the signature requirement if the proponent of the will establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to constitute his will.

The probate court subsequently entered orders denying the petition to determine whether an unsigned will may be admitted to probate and granting summary disposition in favor of Appellee.

The Court of Appeals reversed. It held the probate court erred by concluding that an unsigned will cannot be admitted to probate as a matter of law. The plain language of MCL 700.2503 establishes that it permits the probate of a will that does not meet the requirements of MCL 700.2502. One of the requirements of MCL 700.2502 is that the document must be “signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction.” MCL 700.2502(1)(b). Therefore, a will does not need to be signed in order to be admitted to probate under MCL 700.2503, as long as the proponent of the will establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to be a will. To hold otherwise would render MCL 700.2503 inapplicable to the testamentary formalities, which is contrary to the plain language of the statute.
 
Therefore, the Court held that MCL 700.2503 permits the admission of a will to probate that does not meet the signature requirement in MCL 700.2502(1)(b), as long as the proponent establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to be a will.

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