About the Author:Attorney Douglas G. Chalgian is both certified in elder law by the National Elder Law Foundation and a Fellow with the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He is also the only attorney in Michigan who has served as Chair of both the Probate and Estate Planning and Elder Law and Disability Rights Sections of the State Bar. Mr. Chalgian was appointed by the Governor to the Commission on Services to the Aging. He was one of about a dozen attorneys on the Michigan Trust Code Drafting Committee, and has been selected five times as one of the top 100 lawyers in Michigan by Super Lawyers Magazine. Mr. Chalgian writes and speaks regularly on the topics of estate planning, elder law, and probate court litigation.
The law is slow to change, but changes to the traditional concepts of estate planning are certainly needed. While many states are looking for other methods of approaching the need for change, Michigan’s approach offers what may be the best and most logical solution to the challenges of this digital age. Of course, as with any change, there are offsetting risks and benefits. The Michigan approach raises the importance of the testator’s intent, but does so at the expense of the protective features of the formalities of execution.
Whether this development is good or bad is a matter of debate. Some planners remain concerned that Section 2503 will create more litigation and greater potential for unintended documents or other expressions to be admissible as testamentary expressions. And to be sure, the future is uncertain. Notes of all sorts, emails, and even Facebook posts can now be offered to courts as valid wills or codicils. Time will tell.