Broadly speaking, a will is a document that explains how to distribute any property you leave behind when you die. If you die without a will or another method of distributing your property, such as a trust, your property is distributed according to state law, according to the American Bar Association. If there is no one under state law who can legally take your property, the state becomes the owner. Michigan's Estates and Protected Individuals Act, or EPIC, provides the definition of a "will" used in Michigan law.
Michigan law defines a will broadly. According to section 700.1108 of EPIC, a will is a document that does any one of the following things: names a personal representative or guardian; changes or replaces a previous will, or excludes or limits someone, such as a child, from receiving a share of the deceased person's property. The document does not have to do all of these things; any one will allow it to be classified by a Michigan probate court as a will. The word "testament" means the same thing as "will."
The definition of "will" contained in Michigan EPIC section 700.1108 is used throughout the entire Michigan Estates and Protected Individuals Code, which governs wills and trusts in Michigan, according to EPIC section 700.1102. The only exception is if the word "will" is given a different meaning in another section, where it only applies to that section.
In addition to defining the word "will," the Michigan Estates and Protected Individuals Code explains how a will should be interpreted under Michigan law. For instance, a will is assumed to cover all property the testator (the person making the will) owned during his life and all property his estate acquired after the testator died, according to EPIC section 700.2602. Section 700.2601 defines words like "devisee" and "testator" to designate who is involved in the making and execution of the will and what they may receive.
The Michigan Estates and Protected Individuals Code defines "international wills" in section 700.2951. An international will is one that is not made in Michigan, but is probated in Michigan because the testator had property there or Michigan was his or her permanent residence. An international will must meet the same requirements for witnesses as a will made in Michigan, according to section 700.2953. The phrase "international will" includes wills made in the U.S., but in a state other than Michigan.