If a will is ruined, this raises a lot of questions about whether it was destroyed on purpose because the creator wanted it to be invalid or intended to write a new one. There is a big difference between losing a will in a housefire that consumes the contents of the entire home vs a person taking their will and tossing it into the fireplace. Even though the will is destroyed in both cases, the intent appears to be very different.
In Michigan, as with many other states with similar statutes on the books, an original will needs to be presented in order for it to be processed through the probate process. If the original will cannot be found after a person dies, there are rare circumstances in which probate courts in Michigan can allow for a copy of the will to substitute for an accidentally destroyed or lost will.
The individual facts of each situation will determine whether or not the court is willing to accept this copy of the will. When a petition for formal probate is filed in these cases, a statement must also be submitted at the same time stating that the will is destroyed, lost, or otherwise unavailable. That same petition must also name the contents of the will, and the party filing this document will be responsible for proving facts to the satisfaction of the probate court, including that the original will did indeed exist at some point and was validly executed under the law.
The best circumstances for upholding a copy of a destroyed will involve a destruction that is clearly accidental i.e. housefire, burglary, lost in a move, etc… combined with a copy of the will that is certified as true and authentic by the attorney who created it. If an attorney makes a copy of the will at the time it is signed and keeps that copy in their possession and signs an affidavit attesting to its accuracy, the court will put substantial weight on the accuracy and validity of that copy.
However, different Michigan laws state that the very destruction of a will by the person who made it fully revokes that will. Again, the probate court will look at all of the circumstances and facts involved to determine whether or not a copy of a will that has been provided to probate court should be probated when that original will is unavailable.
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