Wills are often written in odd places or in under odd circumstances.

There is the famous story of a farmer trapped under his tractor in the field, who scribbled his Last Will and Testament on the fender of the tractor.  Yes, while trapped under the tractor he wrote his Will. Although rescued from being trapped under the tractor, he died from the injuries days later.  The probate court accepted his “Fender Will” as a valid Will.

Most people recognize that a valid Will must actually be in writing.  What the writing requirement generally means is that the medium a will is written in must be sufficiently permanent to provide a reliable record. The classic example is a purported Will written in the sand on a beach at low tide. That writing will be wiped away at high tide. This would not constitute a valid Will because the medium is not permanent. 

On the other hand, there are many examples of mediums other than traditional paper. Some of the classic examples of a valid Will written on non-traditional mediums include a Will written on a restaurant napkin, a Will written on toilet paper, a Will painted on a wall of a cave, a Will chiseled in stone and even a Will etched on a rind of a watermelon.

Legend has it that in 1909, the famous Russian writer, philosopher and political thinkerLeo Tolstoy signed a secret and valid Will on a tree stump devising all of his copyrights.

There is no requirement for a valid Will to be written on a computer or a typewriter.  There is no requirement that a valid Will be written or signed in a certain color ink.  Yes, a pink pen would work just fine.  Lipstick—no problem.

However, oral Wills are not generally valid.  Otherwise, every time a person utters comments about what they would like to occur after they die would be subject to interpretation. Before his death in May 2008, Frederic Baur, the man who came up with the distinctive Pringles can, told his children that he wished to be buried in his invention. Yes, left at the bottom of a Pringles can! Since this request was oral, it does not constitute a valid Will. At first Baur’s children were slightly skeptical of his wish, but when Baur passed away, they still honored his request by purchasing a can of Pringles Original (my favorite) at a local store and a part of his cremated remains were duly interred.

In Michigan, a valid Will must comply with MCL 700.2502.  The statute provides:

  • The Will is in writing.
  • The Will is signed by the person making it (called the testator).
  • If the Will is not signed by the testator, it can be signed by another person in his or her name at the testator’s direction.
  • The Will must be witnessed by at least two persons within a reasonable time after the witnessing of the Will.
  • A Will can still be a valid Will even if it is not witnessed, if it is dated and if the testator’s signature and the document’s material portions are in the testator’s handwriting.

This article should not suggest that people start drafting their Will on a piece of toilet paper or a watermelon rind. The Probate Pro often litigates whether a document is a valid Will.  There is no need to subject your family to expensive litigation! An experienced estate planning attorney should be hired to draft the estate plan.