By definition, a dower is the portion of a deceased husband’s real property allowed to his widow for her lifetime. Traditionally, dower rights were a way by which a husband or his family could support a wife and children in the event that she should become a widow.
Today, most states in the United States have abolished dower rights, but a handful of states still recognize a widow’s dower rights including Michigan. Under state law, dower only attaches to real property, not personal property. So, for example, if a husband owns real property, dower rights for his wife will attach at the moment of marriage. However, the same is not true for property owned by a wife as her husband does not have any legal dower interest to that property. This is why if a husband wishes to sell or transfer this property, his wife might also have to sign the transfer document.
In certain instances, as wife’s dower interests can be barred by a voluntary conveyance or by executing a prenuptial agreement.
It is important to seek the advice of legal counsel when dealing with property issues, including dower rights. The attorney will need to determine exactly who owns the property and by what legal mechanism the property is owned. In making this determination, you might be asked to present real property documents, including any deeds, and other formal written agreements for the attorney to review. Please contact Sumner & Associates to get started today!