Michigan Deed Forms for Real Estate Transfers

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What types of deeds are used to transfer Michigan real estate?

A Michigan property owner transfers title to real estate by signing and recording a deed.1 A deed allows the current owner (grantor) to transfer real estate to a new owner (grantee). Depending on the situation, there may be multiple grantors or multiple grantees within a single deed.

There are three main types of deeds for transferring real estate in Michigan. The deed forms are named for (and distinguished by) the warranty of title that they do or do not provide. A warranty of title is a guarantee the grantor gives to the grantee about the status of the property’s title.

Michigan Quitclaim Deed Form

A Michigan quitclaim deed form transfers property with no warranty of title.2 The new owner receives whatever interest in the property the grantor has (if any), but the grantor makes no promises about the property’s title.3 The new owner has no legal recourse against the grantor under a quitclaim deed if there ends up being a problem with the property’s title.

Michigan Warranty Deed Form

A Michigan warranty deed form transfers the property to the new owner with a complete warranty of title.4 The transferor guarantees that the new owner will receive good title to the property and that there are no liens, assessments, taxes, or other encumbrances that affect the title (unless disclosed in the deed). The transferor agrees to be legally responsible for any title issues and to defend the new owner’s title against any claims made by third parties.

Michigan Covenant Deed Form

A Michigan covenant deed form transfers property with a partial warranty of title. The grantor guarantees that he or she has done nothing to impair the property’s title but makes no promises about earlier owners.5 The grantor bears the risk of title issues that arose while he or she held title, and the new owner assumes the risk for any other title issues. A Michigan covenant deed is the equivalent of what most states call a special warranty deed or a limited warranty deed.

Questions about what Michigan deed form is right for you?

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What types of estate planning deeds are used in Michigan?

Michigan recognizes two types of estate-planning deeds that are defined by their probate avoidance features, not by their warranties.

Michigan Life Estate Deed Form

A Michigan life estate deed divides ownership into different time periods by giving one owner (the life tenant) a lifetime ownership interest in the property and transferring to another person (the remainder beneficiary) the right to own the property when the life tenant dies. An owner who creates a traditional life estate deed can transfer or sell complete ownership of the property only if the remainder beneficiary joins in the transfer.

Michigan Enhanced Life Estate Deed Form

A Michigan enhanced life estate deed form (also called a lady bird deed) uses the same structure as a life estate deed, but the life tenant retains broad powers over the property. The life tenant’s enhanced powers include the ability to sell or mortgage the property—or create a new deed leaving it to someone else—without the remainder beneficiary’s consent.

Attorney Practice Note: Transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds name a beneficiary who will automatically take title to the real estate when the owner dies, with no need for probate. Michigan law does not authorize TOD deeds. Lady bird deeds and deeds to living trusts can achieve similar objectives.

What are the ways that multiple owners can hold title to Michigan real estate?

It is not uncommon for more than one owner to own the same parcel of real estate. In Michigan, there are three ways co-owners may hold title to a single piece of property:

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship is a co-ownership form defined by the right of survivorship that the co-owners share. Each owner has an undivided interest in the entire property, and a deceased co-owner’s interest automatically passes to the other co-owners. Thus, a property interest held as a joint tenant with right of survivorship does not go through probate. A Michigan deed must expressly declare that co-owners are joint tenants with right of survivorship.6

Because of the right of survivorship, only individuals (i.e., actual human beings) can own property as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Businesses and trusts have no lifetime, so joint tenancy with right of survivorship is not available to business or trust owners.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety is similar to joint tenancy with right of survivorship but is only available for married spouses. Michigan law treats a married couple who hold title as tenants by the entirety as a single unit, and neither spouse can transfer the property without the other spouse’s consent. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of the property.7 A deed to spouses who will be tenants by the entirety should express a clear intent to create a tenancy by the entirety.8

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is Michigan’s default co-ownership form. Each co-owner (or tenant in common) has an undivided interest in the entire property that passes to that owner’s probate estate upon his or her death.9 A deed to two or more co-owners creates a tenancy in common unless it expressly specifies a different co-ownership form.

What are the rules for spousal ownership of Michigan real estate?

Michigan is not a community property state. Instead, Michigan is among the majority of states that use the common law system (sometimes called separate property states). Because Michigan is a separate property state, one spouse does not automatically have an ownership interest in property deeded to the other spouse during the marriage. If only one spouse is listed on the deed, the property belongs only to that spouse.

Michigan Dower Rights

Although a spouse may have no ownership rights in Michigan real estate owned by the other spouse, the non-owner spouse may nonetheless have dower rights in the property. Dower was a traditional system designed to protect a married woman by giving her a lifetime interest in a portion of her husband’s property. The dower system also required a married woman’s consent to a transfer of her husband’s property to release dower rights.10

Dower was abolished in Michigan effective April 6, 2017, but there is a potential conflict between the repealed law and the Michigan Constitution.11 To avoid the risk of title problems caused by this legal uncertainty, Michigan deeds from a married property owner often allow space for the non-owner spouse’s signature.


Michigan provides preferred legal status for property that is used as a primary residence (or homestead). A Michigan homestead enjoys legal protections from creditor claims. However, unlike the law of some states, Michigan law does not require a spouse that is not listed on the property’s deed (non-owner spouse) to sign the deed to transfer the couple’s homestead. Michigan deeds need not include a statement specifying whether the property being conveyed is the grantor’s homestead.

Where are deeds filed in Michigan?

Michigan deeds are recorded in the county land records for the county where the property is located. Each county has a register of deeds office that maintains the county’s land records.12 A deed should be submitted to the register of deeds office for recording to provide public notice of the deed.13

How much does it cost to file a Michigan deed?

The register of deeds charges a recording fee when a Michigan deed is filed for recording. The standard recording fee is $30.00, though additional fees are required for some deeds and the precise amount may vary by county.14

Does Michigan charge a transfer tax on real estate transfers?

The register of deeds also collects the transfer tax due unless the deed is exempt from transfer tax. Michigan has both state and county-level transfer taxes.15 The state transfer tax rate is $3.75 for each $500.00 of the purchase price. Counties may impose additional transfer tax of $0.55 per $500 (or $0.75 per $500 in counties with populations exceeding two million).16 The tax is based on the property value listed on the deed or set forth in an affidavit attached to the deed.

Some deeds are exempt from Michigan transfer tax.17 An exempt deed should note the reason for the exemption on the face of the deed. Common types of exempt deeds include deeds that transfer property for less than $100.00 consideration and deeds that transfer property between spouses to create a tenancy by the entirety.

Does Michigan require any other form when recording a deed?

The person requesting recording must provide to the register of deeds a treasurer’s certificate regarding payment of property taxes when filing the deed for recording.18

  1. MCL § 565.1.
  2. MCL § 565.152.
  3. MCL § 565.3.
  4. MCL § 565.151.
  5. St. Clair Inn, LLC v. Transcapital Bank, No. 319481 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 24, 2015).
  6. MCL § 554.44.
  7. Rogers v. Rogers, 136 Mich. App. 125 (Mich. Ct. App. 1984).
  8. MCL § 565.49.
  9. MCL § 554.44.
  10. In re Miltenberger, 753 N.W.2d 219 (Mich. 2008).
  11. MCL § 565.221.
  12. MCL §§ 565.291; 565.491.
  13. MCL § 565.29.
  14. MCL § 600.2567.
  15. MCL §§ 207.502(1)(b); 207.523.
  16. MCL §§ 207.504; 207.525.
  17. MCL §§ 207.505(a)-(o); 207.526(a)-(w).
  18. MCL § 211.135.